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Charles Schwab Files Libel, Defamation Lawsuits against Beverly Hills Law Firm for Bogus Websites

Law Firm Steiner & Libo, Partner Leonard Steiner, Plaintiff Nicholas Behunin Sued by Charles Schwab Family For Libel

San Francisco-The Los Angeles law firm Steiner & Libo and one of its clients is being sued for defamation and libel for creating bogus websites as part of a plot to extract money from the family of respected investment advisor Charles R. Schwab, according to lawsuits filed today in Superior Court.

Legal complaints from Charles R. Schwab and his son Michael Schwab were filed against Steiner & Libo, partner Leonard Steiner, and plaintiff Nicholas Behunin of Los Angeles, Calif.

The lawsuits claims the law firm and its client knowingly made false claims on defamatory websites to purposely harm the reputation of the Schwab family in retaliation for not settling a lawsuit, which itself was an effort to shakedown the family.

The Charles R. Schwab lawsuit alleges the sites were “a tool for the extortion of Schwab” by creating the false impression that Mr. Schwab, his son, and family did business with a brutal dictator.

The defamatory sites state that Mr. Schwab sought to do business with the family of the late Indonesian dictator Suharto and his son Tommy Suharto, a convicted murderer. The sites advertise that Mr. Schwab can provide advice to investors on “how to profit from a brutal dictator” and methods to “launder money overseas.”

The Schwab lawsuits unequivocally state that neither Mr. Schwab nor his son Michael ever met President Suharto or Tommy Suharto or had any business dealings with them.

“The only reason to create these fraudulent websites was to besmirch the good name and reputation of Charles R. Schwab and his son Michael. Not one claim on the landing page of the site is true or correct and the guilty parties were aware of that prior to making the defamatory statements,” said attorney Robert R. Moore of the law firm of Allen Matkins, representing Charles R. Schwab.

The lawsuit claims “In sum, (Leonard) Steiner (Steiner & Libo and Nicholas Behunin) used the Websites as a tool for the extortion of Schwab.  The Website’s clear objective was, and is, to publicly embarrass and shame Schwab and then to leverage that public embarrassment into litigation advantage in Behunin’s lawsuit against Schwab.”

“The Defendants agreed to a scheme that included providing false and defamatory information to third parties who would post articles or blogs on the internet repeating the false and defamatory statements provided to them by Defendants…creating the impression that the false statements on the websites had been independently corroborated by the third-party posters,” according the lawsuit by Michael Schwab filed by his attorney David H. Schwartz.

Schwartz pointed to a false and defamatory story by HuffingtonPost.com blogger Bruce Fein entitled “Does This Schwab Charity Satisfy the IRS Perfume Test?<http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bruce-fein/does-this-schwab-charity-_b_5978502.html>” which is based on the libelous and defamatory statements from the bogus websites.

The Schwab’s attorneys said the bogus websites were posted after they refused to pay $25 million to Nicholas Behunin, who, through his attorney Leonard Steiner, threatened to sue unless the payment was made.   When no payment was made, Behunin sued the Schwabs on May 28, 2014, to recover his purported ownership interest in a real estate development venture with Michael Schwab. (The case is Sealutions LLC et al. case number BC546925, in the Superior Court of the State of California for the County of Los Angeles).

“The only purpose and intent of this scheme was to force a settlement through the implicit threat that Defendants would continue to disseminate such false and defamatory statements to the public unless and until Plaintiff and/or his father agreed to a settlement of the pending action,” according to the suit by Michael Schwab.

The Schwab legal filings claim that they initially contacted attorney Steiner in early October to inquire if he or his client was responsible for the websites. Steiner told them he had no knowledge of the sites, according the lawsuits.  The websites were registered anonymously. After further investigation, the Schwab’s attorneys found the sites were registered to Levick Strategic Communications public relations.  Later, after notifying attorney Steiner again, he still denied knowledge of them. After that contact with Steiner, the Schwab lawsuit says, the website was changed to include the name of Steiner & Libo law firm. In the past few days, the firm removed its name and now the site lists its owner as: N. Behunin.

Charles R. SchwabCharles R. Schwab

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Koret Foundation Criticized for Sexism in Lawsuit Against Susan Koret

Koret Foundation Should Apologize for Statements Against Immigrant and Domestic Workers

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

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

 

Anita Friedman, JFCS

Anita Friedman, JFCS

 

San Francisco—A diverse group of immigrant, domestic worker, labor and Jewish advocates demanded the Koret Foundation apologize for and withdraw negative comments directed against Susan Koret, the widow of Koret Foundation founder Joseph Koret, who sued for the Foundation for misdirecting and misusing monies from her husband’s fortune that were meant for the poor.

“The comments by the Koret Foundation and its spokesperson denigrate not only Ms. Koret, but they demean people of color, women, and those workers who tirelessly give their lives to improving the lives of others,” said Alysabeth Alexander.

At issue was a statement by official Koret Foundation spokesman Nathan Ballard who told the media, in response to Ms. Koret’s lawsuit, that “Susan was a housekeeper to Joe Koret and his first wife, Stephanie, and was only married to him for a brief period.” Mr. Ballard is also the spokesman for the Golden State Warriors NBA basketball team.

The group said Ballard’s “denigration of Susan Koret’s background as a housekeeper in an attempt to discredit her is both sexist and classist and should have no place in the public discourse in San Francisco. His statement and language is purposely designed to demean and denigrate women, immigrants, and domestic workers and is unacceptable under any circumstance.”

The group also wrote the Foundation in its letter, saying “While we cannot speak to Ms. Koret’s service on your Board of Directors, we can say that some of the Koret Foundation’s contributions to conservative, right-wing causes that were highlighted in recent news articles are anathema to those of us who work every day to lift up low-wage workers, immigrants, women, and communities of color.”

The letter was sent to the entire Koret Foundation board, including real estate investor Tad Taube; Richard L. Greene of Greene Radovsky Maloney Share & Hennigh; Anita Friedman, the executive director of director of Jewish Family and Children’s Services in San Francisco; Richard Atkinson, former president of the University of California; Michael J. Boskin, Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution; and Abraham D. Sofaer, Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution.

The Koret Board is expected to attend  the opening next week in Warsaw, Poland, of the Museum of the History of Polish Jews. There may be protests in Warsaw against the Koret Foundation because of  the alleged misdirection of Koret funds to the museum by Taube and the Koret Board and their alleged discrimination against Mrs. Koret.

The full text of the letter is below:

 

Open Letter to the Koret Foundation Board of Directors

October 17, 2014

It is with great concern we write to you regarding comments made by your spokesperson, Nathan Ballard, in the San Francisco Chronicle on October 8th about Susan Koret.

“Susan was a housekeeper to Joe Koret and his first wife, Stephanie, and was only married to him for a brief period. Susan is an incompetent director who lacks even a basic understanding of the foundation and its operations.”

Mr. Ballard’s denigration of Susan Koret’s background as a housekeeper in an attempt to discredit her is both sexist and classist and should have no place in the public discourse in San Francisco. His statement and language is purposely designed to demean and denigrate women, immigrants, and domestic workers and is unacceptable under any circumstance.

From reports, we understand that Susan Koret is an immigrant from Korea who began her career as a housekeeper. While we can’t speak to her personal experience or to the legal dispute at the Koret Foundation, we know that the contributions of millions of immigrant women–a great many of whom are domestic workers–should never be slighted.

Domestic workers care for our children, our parents, our elderly, and our communities. Many of us in San Francisco have fought to get the importance of domestic work recognized, so that the workers can enjoy many of the same right that the rest of us take for granted. With a significant legislative victory this year in Sacramento, now is not the time to go backwards.

We know that millions of immigrant women work tirelessly to improve the lives of their families and communities. This experience provides a critical perspective that is often-times missing when important decisions are made.

While we cannot speak to Ms. Koret’s service on your Board of Directors, we can say that some of the Koret Foundation’s contributions to conservative, right-wing causes that were highlighted in recent news articles are anathema to those of us who work every day to lift up low-wage workers, immigrants, women, and communities of color.

We demand that the Board of Directors and Nathan Ballard immediately apologize for and withdraw the negative comments directed against Ms. Koret that demean all people of color, women, and those workers who tirelessly give their lives to improving the lives of others.

Sincerely,

National Domestic Worker Alliance

Alysabeth Alexander, Vice-President of Politics, SEIU Local 1021*

Juanita Flores, Co-Director, Mujeres Unidas y Activas

Katie Joaquin, Campaign Director, CA Domestic Workers Coalition

Hene Kelly, Jewish Labor Committee*

Andrea Lee, Co-Director, Mujeres Unidas y Activas

Shaw San Liu, Tenant and Workers Organizing Center, Chinese Progressive Association*

Kay Vasilyeva, Former Board Member, SF Women’s Political Committee*

*organization listed for identification purposes only — does not imply organizational endorsement

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Koret Foundation Sued by Widow Who Claims Board Members Uses Charity as “Personal Piggy Bank”

Jewish  Family and Children's Services

Anita Friedman Jewish Family and Children’s Services

President of Koret Foundation

Tad Taube, President of Koret Foundation

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

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

Board Member and Silicon Valley Real Estate Investor Tad Taube, San Francisco Attorney Richard L. Greene, JFCS Director Anita Friedman, Other Board Members Shun the Poor, Bay Area, Jewish Causes—in Favor of Spending Foundation Resources on Conservative and Pet Projects at Half-Billion Dollar Charity

 

San Francisco—The Jewish community from San Francisco to Poland was rocked this week when the widow of Koret Foundation founder Joseph Koret filed a lawsuit against the Koret Foundation and its Board of Directors for conflicts of interest and self-dealing.  The lawsuit says the Koret Board is illegally funding pet projects that include right-wing conservative causes in the United States to wrongly spending $10 million to the Museum of the History of Polish Jews.

The lawsuit said the wrongdoing is being orchestrated by Koret Foundation President Tad Taube, a native of Poland and well-known right wing conservative Republican.  The suit also lays blame on Taube’s personal attorney and Board member Richard L. Greene of Greene Radovsky Maloney Share & Hennigh LLP and Anita Friedman, the executive director of director of Jewish Family and Children’s Services in San Francisco as well as board member Richard Atkinson, former president of the University of California; board member Michael J. Boskin, Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution; and board member Abraham D. Sofaer, Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution.

The suit filed October 7, 2014 in San Francisco Superior Court by Mrs. Koret 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.

“Defendants’ duty of loyalty to the Foundation has been corrupted by these directors’ close affiliations with many of the Foundation’s recent grants, resulting in tens of millions of dollars distributed due to self-interest,” according to the lawsuit.

The suit demands the removal of the Koret board members and calls for their replacement with the appointment of an independent board with a majority of Jewish directors.

“Taube says publicly that giving to the poor is “a bottomless pit.” Instead he has led the Koret Foundation by focusing its giving to organizations identified with him, creating a corporate culture of directors who rubber stamp his decisions as long as their favored organizations are also supported.  “In elevating their own and affiliated interests while ostensibly making decisions for the Koret Foundation, defendants are breaching duties of loyalty that require them to serve faithfully the interests of the Koret Foundation” the lawsuit claims.

“Alleviating suffering and misfortune were my husband’s top priorities,” said Mrs. Koret. “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.”

Supporting her lawsuit is Joe and Stephanie Koret’s closest surviving family member, nephew Merv Brown of Walnut Creek, who worked with the Korets for decades.  He said about the suit:

“With all respect to Mr. Taube, if he wants to spend money on Poland, he should use his own money–not my uncle’s and my aunt’s–to assist his homeland. I am proud to stand with Susan Koret to support and endorse the directions and wishes of my family that their fortune be spent as Uncle Joe wished: to help the poor and Jews in Israel and the Bay Area.”

The San Jose Mercury News reported that: “Mrs. Koret is doing a favor for the entire Bay Area community with her lawsuit,” said longtime friend Julie Goodman. “She has a lot of courage. No one else has had the guts to take on Mr. Taube, who has used his power, plus his and the Koret Foundation’s money, to bully a lot of people and organizations into subservience.”

Mrs. Koret’s lawsuit alleges that others, including “philanthropic civic leaders and former and current staff members will support Mrs. Koret in her efforts to restore the Koret Foundation’s purpose and dignity free of the control of Mr. Taube.”

The lawsuit 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.

Sam Singer of Singer Associates, Inc., who is acting as a spokesman for Mrs. Koret in the lawsuit, said the lawsuit will attempt to claw back the $9 million in money from Taube that was given to the Museum of the History of Polish Jews and return it to the Koret Foundation. The Museum of the History of Polish Jews is scheduled to open Oct. 28 in Warsaw. The Museum is reported facing financial difficulties, according to Polish media reports.

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.

The lawsuit also recites that the board has rejected a series of Asian and African-American candidates for board membership, including their rejection last month of former Mayor Willie Brown as president of the Foundation.

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.

She said in the last 12 months, Taube has undertaken three major real estate transactions:  the sale of the Foundation’s largest real estate asset; marketing of another Foundation property; and refinancing a significant loan on a third Foundation property. The collective value of the real estate involved in these transactions is several hundred million dollars, according to the lawsuit.

“Over Mrs. Koret’s objections, defendants approved engaging a broker associated with defendant Taube’s real estate businesses to sell, market and refinance the Foundation’s properties and split its commission with Taube Investments, without disclosing the percentage commission split.  This conduct violates state and federal law and is breach of fiduciary duty,” the lawsuit states.

The Foundation’s general counsel and Taube attorney Richard L. Greene, over Mrs. Koret’s objection, failed to advise that an independent appraisal or broker was needed to market the Foundation property and refinance the loan, even though the same broker associated with Taube’s businesses was engaged for both these real estate transactions, according to the suit.

“Greene’s conduct … may expose the Foundation to claims of self-dealing, is contrary to California professional rules for attorneys in avoiding conflicts of interest, and causes economic injury to the Foundation,” the lawsuit states.

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 $64 million gifted by the Koret Foundation between 2010 and 2012, nearly 60 percent was spent on causes outside the stated mission of her husband, the late Joseph Koret.

The lawsuit claims conflicts of interest, self-dealing, and breaches of duty abound on the board:

  • The Koret Foundation’s Executive Director Jeffrey Farber provides no independent management, reaps a large salary and perks at the Foundation, has little involvement in grant-making and does only what Taube asks him to do.  Farber is also a member of the Taube Philanthropies board, creating a serious conflict of loyalty and duty.   His wife works for Koret Board member Anita Friedman at Jewish Family and Children’s Services, yet another conflict.

Koret Board Member Anita Friedman, director of Jewish Family and Children’s Services, JFCS, sits on the Taube Philanthropies board as a director. Friedman makes up to $380,000 per year as executive director of JFCS, which is a major recipient of Koret funds. During September’s Koret Foundation meeting, she oversaw and participated in a vote granting $1.2 million to the Shalom Hartman Institute, where she also sits on the board.

While JFCS and Shalom Hartman are worthwhile causes, Friedman has failed to recuse herself in any discussions of massive grants to entities where she is on the board or employed. Friedman sees no conflict in directing millions in additional funds to entities where she has other interests and has no inclination to resign her JFCS position. Friedman has voted against every initiative by Mrs. Koret over the past two years seeking to bring independence, balance and transparency to the Koret board.

  • Michael J. Boskin is a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, which has received millions from the Koret Foundation over the years. Earlier this month, the board approved another $280,000 grant to the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research where Boskin is also a Senior Fellow and former director. Since 1992, Koret has approved grants totaling $4.5 million to support SIEPR, and millions to Hoover through Stanford.

 

  • Abraham Sofaer is another interlocking director on the board of Taube Philanthropies, and is also a Senior Fellow Emeritus at the Hoover Institution, based at Stanford University.  From 2010-2012, the Koret Foundation’s funding to Hoover and Stanford of nearly $4 million was about equal to its total support of all social welfare causes in the Bay Area combined.

 

In the lawsuit, Taube, a member of the Board of Overseers and the Executive Committee of the Hoover Institution, is alleged to have misused Foundation money to pay consultants to write editorials opposing Obama administration policies and to attend trips in support of Hoover.

The lawsuit also alleges that Taube:

  • Reduced funds targeted for Koret Foundation grantees and increased funds to organizations that are his personal favorites.

 

  • Used Koret funds to pay millions of dollars to entities affiliated with him or his close associates to manage the Foundation’s real estate holdings.

 

  • Without board approval, commissioned and installed a life-size mural depicting himself and now hung inside the Koret Foundation’s new headquarters in San Francisco at a cost to the Foundation of $80,000.

 

  • Paid more than $75,000 in Foundation money for promotional materials about himself, including booklets and newspaper advertisements.

 

  • Subsidized the operating costs of Taube Philanthropies by using Koret staff and resources for joint grant projects, and used Koret Foundation resources for travel, marketing and personal expenses.

 

  • Terminated a $35,000 contract of an independent publisher of a book about the life of Joseph and Stephanie Koret, the founder’s first wife. Taube was reportedly angry that the book was not about him or his contributions.

 

  • Along with counsel and board member Richard L. Greene, discriminated against and ridiculed Mrs. Koret and prevented her from speaking with Foundation staff.

Mrs. Koret in her lawsuit pledges to maintain the priorities of her husband by broadening the Koret board to include community leaders while maintaining a majority of Jewish directors.  She is committed to maintaining support for the anchor institutions in the Bay Area that Koret has supported over many years and to prevent any continued diversion of funds to out of mission organization and countries.

 

Jewish  Family and Children's Services

SUED: Anita Friedman, Jewish Family and Children’s Services

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

SUED: Richard L. Greene, Partner of the San Francisco law firm Greene, Radovsky, Maloney, Share & Hennigh

President of Koret Foundation

SUED: Tad Taube, President of Koret Foundation

 

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REALLY? Boycott launched against openly gay St Louis Rams player Michael Sam, by Christian lobbyist Jack Burkman

In a move which he said will teach companies a lesson for “trampling on Christian values”, Jack Burkman has also aimed his protest against financial giant Visa, who gave Mr Sam his first advertising contract.

A coalition of evangelical Christian leaders from across the US, as well as influential grassroots organisations in 27 of the 50 states, have now been mobilised against the firms, according to Mr Burkman

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As part of the protest, Rams fans will be told to stop buying the team’s merchandise and not to attend games, while members of the public will be asked stop using their Visa cards, and to sell any of the company’s stocks they may own.

“Visa and the Rams will learn that when you trample the Christian community and Christian values, there will be a terrible financial price to pay,” said Burkman, head of the Washington DC lobbying firm JM Burkman & Assoc.

“Openly gay football players send a terrible message to our youth about morality. Somebody needs to step up because the moral fiber of the nation is eroding.”

As well as the boycott, Mr Burkman’s firm is attempting to push a draft bill through Washington, which will ban all openly gay players from the NFL and other professional sports in the country.

Mr Burkman’s attack comes after the 24-year-old football player was praised for celebrating his acceptance call from Rams coach Jeff Fisher on Sunday evening by kissing his boyfriend live on sports channel ESPN.

Chat show host Ellen Degeneres tweeted: “So proud of the @STLouisRams for showing there’s nothing to be afraid of. Congratulations, @MikeSamFootball”.

Speaking at a news conference held by the Rams after being drafted, Sam said: “I’ve been getting in shape and preparing for this moment for a very long time. I’m so determined to be great.”

When asked about potential detractors, Sam said: “It’s about football. Can I play football? Yes I can.”

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Football Player Flaunts Sexual Orientation On Live Television

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AJ McCarren didn’t seem to care that television cameras were on him when he decided to flaunt his heterosexual relationship with Katherine Webb.

“All of a sudden they were making out,” said ESPN viewer Roger Jellyton. “I couldn’t believe my eyes, and my children were in the room. How was I supposed to explain what they were seeing? What, that it’s OK for two people who love each other to kiss in a moment of joy and celebration? Ugh. What is this nation coming to? Enough is enough.”

When Free Wood Post interviewed McCarren on his decision to kiss his female partner on television he said, “I didn’t really even think about it. I love her and wanted to share the moment with her. That’s about it.”

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Most corrupt Olympics ever: Why Sochi’s “above and beyond” what we’ve seen before

Protesters against the 2014 Winter Olympics being held in Sochi, Russia (Credit: AP/Lefteris Pitarakis)

The 2014 Winter Olympics will have their official kickoff Friday, with an opening ceremony marked in part by the absence of politicians from several high-profile countries. Knocking the “ostentatious gesture” of non-attendance, International Olympic Committee head Thomas Bach declared the organization “grateful to those who respect the fact that sport can only contribute to the development of peace if it’s not used as a stage for political dissent, or for trying to score points in internal or external contexts.” But the prospect of protest – by politicians, by activistsor by Olympic athletes – looms large over the games.

To parse Olympic politics, this week Salon called up the Nation sports correspondent Dave Zirin, who wrote the book “Game Over: How Politics Has Turned the Sports World Upside Down,” and co-authored the memoir of John Wesley Carlos, the bronze medalist whose defiant raised fist defined the 1968 Olympics. Faced with extreme anti-gay laws in Russia, Zirin predicted, “I think that there are going to be athletes from a lot of different countries, and maybe from Russia itself, that are either going to speak out or do something.” A condensed version of our conversation follows.

You say that this appears to be the most corrupt Olympics in history. How so?

Well, you’ve never had an Olympics where there is $30 billion plus that seems to be just unaccounted for … There is corruption in every Olympics, but it seems like Sochi is just above and beyond anything that we’ve seen before. And frankly there are very tangible reasons why that’s the case … I think the level of graft is a surprise, but the actuality is not a surprise. Because from the very beginning — forget about the corruption, forget about the kleptocracy – from the very beginning, Vladimir Putin approached the international Olympic committee and said: My goal is not only the Olympics, staging the Olympics, I want to remake this entire region of Russia. And I’m going to do it by holding the Winter Olympics in a subtropical climate in the middle of what has been for the last two decades a veritable war zone.

So all of these factors together, everybody knew that this would be very expensive for the Winter Games, which are usually much less expensive than the Summer Games. But I don’t think anyone expected it to be the most expensive Olympics in history, and more expensive than every single Winter Olympics combined.

What do you hope to see at the Olympics?

I hope to see a break from the very homogenous, monochromatic sporting environment that we have currently. That’s one of the things about the Olympics, which is why it remains so attractive to so many people, is that there’s an interesting break from the usual sports that are forced down our throats. So I am excited to see things like the first women’s ski jumping competition …

I am also excited at the prospect of activism on the question of LGBT liberation. And I’m excited about it because I think it’s going to happen on a scale that’s international, and won’t look like the United States trying to stick a thumb in Putin’s eye and all the rest of that, like using LGBT rights as a diplomatic shell game. But I think that there are going to be athletes from a lot of different countries, and maybe from Russia itself, that are either going to speak out or do something.

And I think we can expect political action to take place at the Olympics, because of this movement — and because we are living in a time, Josh, of unprecedented confidence of LGBT athletes. And that being said, that doesn’t mean there isn’t still a long ways to go, but relative to where we’ve been, I mean the steps have been seismic in recent years.

What are some of the forms that activism could take?

Because of Russia’s laws, a lot of what’s being planned is under lock and key. I’ve certainly heard some rumors of what could happen … I don’t even want to repeat them, one, because I’m not entirely sure about the veracity. Two, I’m not entirely sure if I wouldn’t be exposing people to either persecution, or if there would be preemptive steps that would prevent any kind of activism …

I do know that there are people who are very committed, and very serious. And they feel they’ve laid the kind of groundwork that has put Putin in the position that if they do something, they’re not going to get arrested. Even though there are people in the Russian parliament, the Russian Duma, who believe that according to the letter of the law they should be arrested, because they would be propagating homosexuality, and that is against the law in Russia … I think enough groundwork and enough attention has been put down that if they do choose to use that platform, that they’re going to have the requisite amount of cover to make it home in one piece. And obviously I hope that they’re correct.

Given that you coauthored “The John Carlos Story,” what is the lesson of that act of protest? How does that inform how you look at this?

I would want to give all the credit in the world to Dr. John Carlos, and all the respect in the world for standing so strongly with the LGBT community on this issue. It demonstrates his commitment to universal human rights, and his active presence on every front in the fight for human liberation. He’s a tremendous person.

The second thing is the lesson that John projects — the lesson that John has said explicitly — is that athletes have minds, not only bodies. And expecting athletes to just be instruments of physical excellence, yet not have an opinion in their heads about the ways in which their physical excellence has been used politically, is to deny them their humanity.

And therefore, John doesn’t think athletes need to speak out. John doesn’t think athletes don’t need to speak out. John thinks athletes need to be free to follow their conscience. And John always says that the lesson of his life is that it’s much worse to regret not doing something than to regret doing something.

The president in his State of the Union said that “we believe in the inherent dignity and equality of every human being, regardless of race or religion, creed or sexual orientation. And next week the world will see one expression of that commitment when Team USA marches the red, white and blue into the Olympic stadium and brings home the gold.” Do you agree with that framing of those questions?

No. I think a step back needs to be taken, and the first question is: Why is the president talking about symbolic LGBT resistance at the Olympics, and not actual[ly] speaking out in the State of the Union about [the Employment Non-Discrimination Act] or … taking on the fact that there are 29 states in the United States where it’s still legal to fire someone on the basis of their sexuality?

For two reasons, I have a problem with the president sending the Billie Jean King delegation with Caitlin Cahow, Brian Boitano, openly LGBT Olympians. I have a problem with it on two counts. One, I think doing that in the absence of taking on homophobia, trans-phobia in the United States is a shell game.

And the other … Barack Obama in the past has, like particularly during the Arab Spring, made mention of the fact that if the U.S. went in too aggressively to, say, topple Mubarak, for example, then that would be used as an excuse to further oppress the protesters, if they were being seen as U.S. puppets. And he said that explicitly. He understands that dynamic exists: that the U.S. is not always seen as this magnanimous force for good, and often if it comes into this internal political situation, that can be used as an excuse to crack down on dissent, and propagandize against protestors — as saying, “Wait a minute, there are foreign agents” or what have you.

And I think we have to be extremely mindful of the fact that after the confetti has been cleared, after all the cameras go home, there is still an LGBT community in Russia that’s going to have to deal with these laws. And the question then becomes — the only question that matters, Josh, is — are the actions taken by the Olympians going to make the situation on the ground better or worse for the people who are there after the games are over?

And I have very real concerns that by President Obama using this issue to stick a thumb in Putin’s eye — and everybody knows that Russia and the United States have issues that go well beyond this, from Syria, to trade, to the Middle East — that it comes across as using the protests to further the United States’ other aims. I have to say, when you consider that the U.S. hasn’t said anything about its ally India, you know, a country of over a billion people, recently passing homophobic laws — you don’t want to be in a position of selectively being against oppression.

How would you reform the Olympics, in terms of the economics, in terms of the structure, in terms of the content, in terms of how decisions get made?

I think that there are two ways to go about it. Everywhere the Olympics go, they bring budget-busting economic projects, displacing people from their homes, and the utter militarization of a region. Those are true of every Olympics, whether we’re talking about Sochi, whether we’re talking about Vancouver, whether we’re talking about Atlanta, whether we’re talking about Beijing, whether we’re talking about Mexico City, whether we’re talking about Hitler’s Berlin.

I mean, it exists to greater or lesser degrees, but it’s there all the same. And so if we’re going to remedy, very concretely, those problems, then I think the thing that makes the most sense is having one stable Olympics set. Where the infrastructure can be built and rebuilt — where you don’t have to remove people from their homes. I mean, you stick it somewhere in the world, so you don’t get extraordinary acts of hubris like Vladimir Putin saying I’m going to put the Olympics in a subtropical climate …

The other way: Well, there’s just a lot of people who say that in a sane world, the Olympics should be abolished, because it’s just about promoting nationalism. And I don’t go down that road entirely, because I think that there’s clearly, I mean, an appetite for these kind of sports to be highlighted, and there is art and beauty in these kinds of sports.

I mean, I would love it if it was organized in a way that was less nationalistic, of course. But at the same time … there’s a way in which I think, when we celebrate these global sports that places in other parts of the world are able to excel at, that it’s actually good for people in the United States to be able to witness that. Often that coverage is skewered toward U.S. athletes. But I think in and of itself, it’s good; I like the concept of a global athletic festival. It’s something worth celebrating.

But the way it currently operates, it operates too often … like a neoliberal trojan horse. Where people are excited about the Olympics, and then all of these economic, neoliberal sporting shock doctrine measures are pushed through.

How do you see the moral or political responsibility of fans? Whether we’re talking about the economic policies or the security policies of the Olympics, or the clinging to the name “Redskins,” or the alleged abuses in the NCAA, what kind of politics or responsibility goes with being a fan and watching a sport?

Well, I think the first thing is people got to stop — I mean, you have seen recently this ferocious pushback from the right wing on this, that is trying to frame this as a left-wing, right-wing issue … These are pretty clearly right or wrong issues. Like, either we are going to have racist team names for a sport, or we’re not. So it’s not left or right; it’s racism versus anti-racism …

With stadium funding, it’s are you for corporate welfare and taxpayers getting soaked, or are you against it? Are you for NCAA athletes getting exploited within an inch of their lives, or do you support them fighting back? I mean, this needs to be the way these discussions are framed. Because there’s a lot of injustice in sports, for the simple reason that sports are insanely profitable, and they are controlled by a small minority of people, and in that way it’s not that different from any other big business.

But the main difference is that I think we have some sort of collective sense of ownership of sports … Who the hell roots for Exxon Mobile over British Petroleum? … You say ,“This is my team.” You don’t say, “This is my gas station.” And I think that because people have that sense of ownership, they need to exercise it in ways that are more psychological, and demand what they don’t like about sports to change.

How do you decide whom to root for?

I mean, I decide who to root for on the basis of what I feel in my gut. There are teams I love from my youth …

But sometimes you don’t have a team to root for. And then I think it’s always fun to root for a team who, if they win, it kind of provokes an interesting discussion about sports and politics. Maybe that’s just me personally. That’s just like, for example, I just wrote this piece … If you’re not a Broncos fan and you’re not a Seahawks fan, root for the Seahawks, because if Russell Wilson, the quarterback for the Seahawks, leads his team to victory, then it really chops away at a lot of very tired tropes that surround the quarterback position: from his height, to his ability to scramble, to the fact that he’s a person of color, to the fact that he was a later-round draft pick. And that’s kind of cool, that he’s able to take some of these tired sports radio tropes and just turn them on their heads.

So, who do you root for in the Olympics?

Well, I try to not root for anybody in the Olympics, honestly. I like rooting for individual stories in the Olympics. And I like just really taking in how interesting I think so many of the events are that are usually denied in mainstream sports coverage…

I think speed skating is amazing, figure skating is amazing … I mean, shoot, I can even get into curling if I’ve had a couple of beers.

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San Francisco Christmas Eve Day Toy Drive for Children at Handlery Hotel by Firefighters is a Success

 

San Francisco Firefighters Union Local 798 held a successful toy drive to make sure no child went without a toy in San Francisco this Christmas, thanks to Jon Handlery and his family’s landmark San Francisco hotel.

 

Dressed as Santa Claus, San Francisco Firefighter Bob Cuff and costumed characters accompanied by off-duty firefighters were in front of the Handlery Union Square Hotel, 351 Geary (between Powell and Mason), San Francisco from 9 a.m. to midnight on Christmas Eve day.

 

Beloved hotel owner Jon Handlery and Handlery hotel staff served as “Santa’s Helpers” and assisted with the collection of thousands of toys for needy San Francisco kids.

 

The Handlery Hotel has raised $3,500 and donated two barrels of toys to the drive this year to ensure no kid were without a Holiday present.

 

Firefighters Union Local 798 asked people to bring unwrapped toys which were collected in front of the Handlery Hotel. Everyone who brought a toy got free pictures with Santa and many children brought their lists of Christmas wishes to Santa in person.

 

An additional toy drive was held just next door to the hotel at Lefty O’Doul’s bar and pub, a property which is also owned by the Handlery family.

 

SF Firefighters Local 798 Toy Program

 

The Local 798 San Francisco Firefighters Toy Program is celebrating its 64th year of providing toys to San Francisco children in need during the holidays.  The San Francisco Firefighter’s Toy Program is San Francisco’s largest and the nation’s oldest program of its kind.  Since 1949 it has evolved from a few firefighters repairing broken toys and bikes for 15 families to, in 2012, 300 firefighters and friends volunteering their time to distribute over 200,000 toys to more than 40,000 disadvantaged children.

 

Besides helping individual families in need, the Toy Program serves many community organizations, including shelters for abused women and children, inner-city schools, children’s cancer wards, and pediatric AIDS units.

 

The Toy Program is made possible through public donations and the efforts and contributions of Local 798 members.

 

Firefighters Union Local 798 wishes to thank Jon Handlery & the staff of the Handlery Union Square hotel for welcoming the Toy Program at their property.

 

 

The Handlery Union Square Hotel

 

Located at Union Square, the Handlery Union Square Hotel offers the perfect San Francisco lodging for vacationers and business travelers.  As a fourth generation family-owned hotel, the Handlery has created great experiences for guests by offering personal service, beautifully appointed rooms, and a warm atmosphere.  Ideally located right next to the world famous Powell Street cable car line, the Handlery Union Square Hotel is a beloved San Francisco institution.

 

 

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California PUC to Consider Historic Fine Against PG&E and Orrick Herrington Law Firm Attorney in Faulty Gas Line Case

Joseph M. Malkin

PG&E and its Orrick Herrington Attorney are Facing Historic Fines and Legal Sanctions for Misleading the California Public Utilities Commission

The California Public Utilities Commission will vote on historic sanctions and a fine of up to $17 million against the Pacific Gas & Electric Corp. Thursday, Dec. 19 for failing to disclose faulty pipeline records in San Carlos to both the CPUC, the public and the City of San Carlos for nearly a year, creating a possibly dangerous public safety issue that one of its own engineers likened to possibly “another San Bruno situation” in an internal email to PG&E executives.

PG&E and its attorney Joseph M. Malkin of Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP law firm are facing a fine of up to $17 million for violating CPUC rules and discreetly filing an “errata” – the legal term for a minor correction – on the status of two pipelines, located in San Carlos and Millbrae, nearly a year after a gas leak unexpectedly revealed faulty records for those pipelines.

Pipelines listed as “seamless,” as in the case of the line that ruptured in San Bruno, were in fact a 1929 vintage welded and reconditioned gas pipe with a strength test less than records showed. The legal correction was made quietly on the afternoon of July 3, 2013, a day before the CPUC took off for the July Fourth holiday, disclosing the fact that PG&E had relied on faulty records to determine the specifications for those pipelines to handle gas at high pressure.

The Commission will make this decision three weeks after PG&E CEO and Chairman Tony Earley made a special presentation before the CPUC in an attempt to convince commissioners and the public of the company’s renewed commitment to safety. Earley was met with a skeptical commission, which challenged PG&E’s credibility in the face of mounting recordkeeping errors and threats to public safety. “We find ourselves here today with a public that doesn’t believe you and in many respects doesn’t believe us,” Commissioner Mike Florio said to Earley at the hearing.

City of San Bruno officials have agreed with the proposed fine against PG&E and are calling on the CPUC to uphold proposed sanctions against PG&E for deliberately covering up the facts after it used faulty records to determine that two Bay Area pipelines could safely operate – a decision demonstrating the continued problem with PG&E record keeping practices. Bad record keeping was one of the causes of the 2010 PG&E disaster in San Bruno and continues to threaten public safety.

Calling the July 3 PG&E filing a “brazen and calculated act of damage control,” San Bruno attorneys say PG&E’s legal maneuver illustrates PG&E’s ongoing attempts to cover its tracks as it continues to use natural gas pipelines at inappropriate operating pressures, without accurate records and with the same flawed materials that caused a tragic explosion and fire in San Bruno that killed eight, destroyed 38 homes and damaged scores more.

City officials were shocked to discover that, after gross negligence and bad recordkeeping by PG&E resulted in the fatal tragedy in San Bruno, PG&E paid its legal team to perpetuate their deception at the risk of public safety. They are now calling on the CPUC to issue sanctions and send the strong message that such behavior will not be tolerated. Officials question how many communities must endure tragedy before PG&E and our state utility regulators wake up and put safety first.

Faulty recordkeeping was found to be a major contributor to the explosion and fire in San Bruno after federal and state investigators found that PG&E had maintained bad or nonexistent pipeline safety records for much of its 1,000+ miles of urban natural gas transmission lines. As a result, state regulators required PG&E to lower pressure on its other Peninsula gas pipelines until safety records could be verified.

In 2011, PG&E declared that the pipeline construction records were accurate for both Line 101, which runs from Milpitas to San Francisco, and Line 147, which runs in the San Carlos area. Based on PG&E’s representations, the CPUC allowed PG&E to increase the pressure back to pre-explosion levels.

In reality, PG&E’s pipelines were not rated to operate at higher pressure, as revealed after an October 2012 corrosion-related leak in San Carlos revealed seams in the pipeline previously not thought to exist. Yet, it took nine months for the company to admit – by way of the subtle “errata” filing — that the records it had relied on to make that determination were faulty.

At previous CPUC hearings, regulators pressed PG&E over the “profoundly troubling” oversight, which occurred despite “the expenditure of hundreds of millions of dollars for record review and validation.” PG&E now faces fines of up to $17 million, on top of a possible $2.25 billion penalty and fine stemming from the fatal 2010 explosion and fire in San Bruno.

San Bruno officials say this is just the latest example of PG&E expending millions on top attorneys – more than $120 million by PG&E’s own admission – to subvert the truth and put profits over people.

 

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Drakes Bay Oyster Co: Judge Slams Majority Opinion, Calls it a “Hand Waving” decision

INVERNESS, CALIF. — Owners of the Drakes Bay Oyster Company today said they strongly disagree with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal’s decision to eject the historic oyster farm, and that attorneys for Drakes Bay are now reviewing all options before announcing the farm’s plans moving forward.

The Ninth Circuit’s three-judge panel ruled 2 to 1 today against the oyster operation, with Justice Paul J. Watford writing a dissenting opinion in support of the oyster farm. In the dissent, Watford wrote that Drakes Bay should have prevailed on its claim that Secretary Salazar’s decision was, “arbitrary, capricious or otherwise not in accordance with law.” Watford also stated that the majority opinion consisted of “hand waving” containing “nothing of any substance”, and that the injunction should have been granted (see pg. 47 from the Ninth Circuit decision).

The well-loved oyster farm asked the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to prohibit the Federal Government from ejecting Drakes Bay from its property, destroying its business and taking away the jobs of its 30 employees before the case was even fully litigated.

“As community farmers and environmentalists, we continue to hold firmly in our belief that we have taken the appropriate measures to protect and preserve the waters of Drakes Estero and the wildlife that calls the National Seashore home,” said Kevin Lunny, owner of Drakes Bay.

For years, Drakes Bay has been fighting against false science and unsupported accusations from the Interior Department and the National Park Service in their attempts to close down the farm.  In a decision made last November, then-Interior Secretary Ken Salazar refused to issue a permit to allow Drakes Bay to continue farming upon the expiration of its 40-year-lease. The lease allowed the farm to operate on public land within the Point Reyes National Seashore, which was created decades after the oyster farm’s inception.

Drakes Bay asserts that the Ninth Circuit panel failed to consider several critical issues in their decision. Drakes Bay alleges that Salazar illegally determined that the Estero’s “potential wilderness” designation prevailed over Congress’ more recent direction, which authorized the renewal of the farm’s permit due to the fact that Salazar’s decision relied heavily on scientific misconduct and false science.

“The Ninth Circuit’s decision to deny this injunction is a step backwards not only for Drakes Bay, but also for Marin County, proponents of sustainable agriculture and farmers around the country. Our attorneys are now reviewing all of our options before we announce our plans moving forward.” Lunny said.

About Drakes Bay Oyster Company

Oyster farming in Drakes Estero, located in Point Reyes, Marin County, has been part of the region’s history for nearly 100 years. The Lunnys, a fourth-generation ranching family, purchased Drakes Bay in 2004 to revive a historical part of the local community and ensure the continued environmental health of Drakes Estero.  Drakes Bay currently employs nearly 30 community members, and farms sustainably in Drakes Estero, producing approximately one-third of all oysters in California. The Lunny family works hard to participate in keeping the agricultural economic system in West Marin alive. Drakes Bay actively participates in the creation of a more sustainable food model that restores, conserves, and maintains the productivity of the local landscapes and the health of its inhabitants. For more information, please visit www.drakesbayoyster.com.

 

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America’s Cup Race Jury Decision Makes Oracle Team USA Underdog in Most Contested America’s Cup in History

 

Oracle Team USA Now Is The Underdog in Most Heated America's Cup in History

 

An international jury has levied the harshest penalties in the 162-year history of the America’s Cup, docking defending champion Oracle Team USA two points in the finals against Emirates Team Zealand and expelling a key sailor.

The penalties announced against the syndicate Tuesday are for illegally modifying prototype boats in warmup regattas last year and earlier this year.

Oracle Team USA must win 11 races to retain the silver trophy. Team New Zealand must still win nine races in the series, which starts Saturday on San Francisco Bay.

Dirk de Ridder, who trims the wing sail, is barred from sailing in the regatta, and two shore crew members also have been expelled. Grinder Matt Mitchell has been barred from the first four races.

Oracle Team USA also was fined $250,000.

“The rules infractions involved only a few of our 130 team members, and were done without the knowledge of either our team’s management or the skippers who were driving the boats,” said team CEO Russell Coutts in a statement. “While we disagree with the unprecedented penalties imposed by the Jury, we have no choice but to make the necessary changes to personnel on our race boat and do our best to use the next four days for the new team to practice and get ready for the start of the 34th America’s Cup.”

The scenario creates the most hotly contested America’s Cup race in the storied history of the sport, clearly placing the Oracle Team USA as the underdog in the series against Emirates Team Zealand.  Despite the stupidity of Team USA members for participating in the boat weighting affair, the hard lesson learned has created a more than healthy rivalry with the Kiwi team.

The Kiwi team and the New Zealand media may have overplayed their hand and protested too much, creating an animosity with the American team.  American’s fight best when they are down, and they are assuredly down now, having lost three members of their team and two match points.

The New Zealander team has been together for four years and now the Oracle Team USA has only been selected and together for four days.  That’s quite a contrast, and, combined with the jury’s penalties, puts them in a fight, win or die position.  And, it also adds excitement and a new angle to what has been, up until now, a rather lackluster sporting event in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Hand it to Larry Ellison. Even when his team screws up, they make the best and most exciting things out of it.

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America’s Cup: Is Emirates New Zealand Team Celebrating America’s Cup Jury Decision Too Soon?

America’s Cup: Jury Rigged?

The level of glee by the Emirates New Zealand  team and news media over foibles of Oracle Team USA has taken such a decidedly nasty turn that members of the International Jury have delayed their decision over what penalties, if any, should be given to defending America’s Cup champion team in the “weighting scandal.”

Clearly, Oracle Team USA made a serious mistake. Who in Hell puts weights on a ship to make it go faster? And, who in Hell does it in “pre-season” matches when it doesn’t matter in scoring America’s Cup races?

It was a stupid move by someone/s on Team USA, but it shouldn’t impact the most sought after silver trophy in the World, The America’s Cup.

But the New Zealand team, and the media down-under, have gone “John Bull Mad” over the alleged scandal and created such an ugly scene they have brought disrepute on themselves as much as Team USA. It’s embarrassing to read the ‘homer” news copy from the Kiwis.

The N.Z. media’s fawning stories about the “cheating scandal” and how it has harmed the sport are hogwash.  The America’s Cup is always controversial and the Kiwi’s namby-pamby media patter has made the entire sport look amateurish, low-class and soft.

The jury should make its decision and it should be fair and square–something that has not been so far with leaks from the Jury and other questionable allegations making their way into the media.

The Jury’s pending decision should not be delayed any longer and the decision must be commensurate with the alleged wrong doing: if no harm and no impact was had on the America’s Cup race itself, why should any of the sailors or Team USA be penalized? Really?

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Major Victory for Drakes Bay Oyster Co. as Marin Court Allows Farm to Remain Open Until Federal Lawsuit is Resolved

Amy Trainer, Environmental Action Committee of West Marin executive director, discredited by false statements against Drakes Bay Oyster Co. Court makes favorable  judgement for DBOC

A Marin County Superior Court Judge put two orders by the California Coastal Commission on the back burner that would have forced the historic Drakes Bay Oyster Company (DBOC) to shut down prior to the resolution of a pending federal lawsuit.

“We are pleased that the court stayed the restoration order, recognizing that it was inappropriate for the Commission to act while the federal permit is still  under review by the Court,” said DBOC owner, Kevin Lunny.  “We are  troubled, however, that the Commission continues to misrepresent the oyster farm operations to the public and the Court. We are confident that theirmisrepresentations will be revealed for what they are—completely unfounded and contradictory with their own reports—when the hearing on the merits occurs,” he said.

In February 2013, the Commission issued a Cease and Desist Order and Restoration Order against Drakes Bay, alleging that the historic farm was not complying with required standards and was harming harbor seals, eelgrass and the environment of Drakes Estero. These allegations were  repeatedly proven to be false by the Nation’s top scientists and the Commission’s own reports.

A special Commission Trip Report, prepared in 2007, directly contradicts the two major claims the Commission has made in court. The Commission argued that the oyster farm harms harbor seals because “there are boats cruising around near harbor seals”, but its report admits that “servicing the oyster bags located several hundred yards away from the haul-out sites probably would not result in disturbance to the seals.”  The Commission also argued that DBOC is “expanding” operations, but its own report admitted that the historical production cap was 700,000 pounds/year, a recommended level of production which DBOC has not violated.

Even the Commission’s own vice-chair, Steve Kinsey, has called the Commission’s treatment of DBOC “morally disturbing.” Kinsey stated that the Commission has “repeated the same disproven assertions that the operation was harming harbor seals and eelgrass” and “chosen to portray the Lunnys as irresponsible operators to aid and abet the Park Service’s myopic interest in terminating the lease.”

“With the support of our employees, thousands of environmentalists, community members and elected leaders around the nation, we will continue to fight and remain confident and hopeful that we will be successful in the next stages of our legal battle,” Lunny stated.

Recently,  Amy Trainer, Director of the Environmental Action Committee of West Marin, has been  exposed in a series of false statements against Drakes Bay Oyster Co.  Trainer has issued a series of false news releases and made statements regarding  the scientific evidence about the benefits of oyster farming.  She and the Environmental Action Committee of West Marin, were also behind the false statements that the DBOC was being funded by the conservative Koch brothers.  It has been proven there was no tie or link between the Koch brothers and DBOC and Trainer and her environmental group have been discredited.

About Drakes Bay Oyster Company

Oyster farming in Drakes Estero, located in Point Reyes, MarinCounty, has been part of the region’s history for nearly 100 years. The Lunnys, a fourth-generation Point Reyesranching family, purchased Drakes Bay Oyster Company in 2004 to revive a historical part of the local community and ensure the continued environmental health of Drakes Estero.  DrakesBaycurrently employs nearly 30 community members, and farms sustainably in Drakes Estero, producing approximately one-third of all oysters in California. The Lunny family works hard to participate in keeping the agricultural economic system in West Marin alive. DrakesBayactively participates in the creation of a more sustainable food model that restores, conserves, and maintains the productivity of the local landscapes and the health of its inhabitants. For more information, please visit www.drakesbayoyster.com.

 

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America’s Cup sponsor Louis Vuitton wants a refund

One of the most prestigious and longest running sponsors of the America’s Cup wants some of its money back.

Louis Vuitton, the posh French retailer that has been a primary financial backer of the competition, wants $3 million refunded because so few teams have entered.

Louis Vuitton’s initial sponsorship was for $10 million, according to an America’s Cup source. Its contract was based on at least eight teams taking part in the Louis Vuitton Cup, a round-robin playoff to determine which team will ultimately sail against Oracle Team USA in the America’s Cup championship.

There are three teams entered in the Louis Vuitton Cup: Italy’s Luna Rossa, Sweden’s Artemis Racing and Emirates Team New Zealand.

Since the 1980s, there have been anywhere from 7 to 13 teams taking part in the competition. Several potential challengers — from Korea, France, Australia, Spain and Italy — pulled out of the America’s Cup, many citing the financial burden of competing at sailing’s highest level.

Louis Vuitton can get a $1 million rebate for each team less than six that participate, the Cup source said. That would mean the company is entitled to get $3 million back.

Should any of the remaining teams pull out of the competition — which they have hinted they might do — Louis Vuitton would be entitled to even more money back.

A spokesman for the America’s Cup, which began this week and runs until September, said that Louis Vuitton’s actions were “a very old story.”

Due to a dispute with the regatta director of the America’s Cup, the Italian team has boycotted sailing. That lead to a bizarre scenario July 7 in which Emirates Team New Zealand sailed the race course alone in San Francisco Bay to formally win the first of several matches in the Louis Vuitton Cup.

Bruno Trouble, a former America’s Cup sailor for France who is Louis Vuitton’s ambassador to the America’s Cup, told the New Zealand Herald he is “very upset” that the opening day of the event was overshadowed by Luna Rossa’s no-show. Louis Vuitton will continue to support the regatta financially, but at a reduced rate, the newspaper reported.

“We have a deal,” Trouble said. “We are committed to this event, we are not happy, but we are committed.”

Louis Vuitton has been a Cup sponsor for 30 years. Prior to its sponsorship of the Challenger Series, the teams who took part in the pre-races had to divide the cost of the event themselves.

Louis Vuitton briefly dropped its sponsorship of the Cup in 2007, saying that commercialism had overtaken the competition. Then in 2010, after Oracle Racing won the America’s Cup, Louis Vuitton renewed its sponsorship of the Cup.

“There’s nothing new here,” said America’s Cup spokesman Tim Jeffery.

A Louis Vuitton spokesman was not immediately available for comment. But a Louis Vuitton representative told a New Zealand newspaper that the company was “not happy” with the Louis Vuitton Cup so far.

From the San Francisco Business Times

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America’s Cup Shocker in San Francisco: Louis Vuitton Wants its Money Back for Race Sponsorship

One of the most prestigious and longest running sponsors of the America’s Cup wants some of its money back, according to the San Francisco Business Times.

Louis Vuitton, the posh French retailer that has been a primary financial backer of the competition, wants $3 million refunded because so few teams have entered.

Louis Vuitton’s initial sponsorship was for $10 million, according to an America’s Cup source. Its contract was based on at least eight teams taking part in the Louis Vuitton Cup, a round-robin playoff to determine which team will ultimately sail against Oracle Team USA in the America’s Cup championship.

There are three teams entered in the Louis Vuitton Cup: Italy’s Luna Rossa, Sweden’s Artemis Racing and Emirates Team New Zealand.

Since the 1980s, there have been anywhere from 7 to 13 teams taking part in the competition. Several potential challengers — from Korea, France, Australia, Spain and Italy — pulled out of the America’s Cup, many citing the financial burden of competing at sailing’s highest level.

Louis Vuitton can get a $1 million rebate for each team less than six that participate, the Cup source said. That would mean the company is entitled to get $3 million back.

Should any of the remaining teams pull out of the competition — which they have hinted they might do — Louis Vuitton would be entitled to even more money back.

A spokesman for the America’s Cup, which began this week and runs until September, was not immediately available for comment.

A Louis Vuitton spokesman was not immediately available for comment. But a Louis Vuitton representative told a New Zealand newspaper that the company was “not happy” with the Louis Vuitton Cup so far.

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ON SCENE WITH BILL WILSON: MORE IN ROME

 British rider, Nick Skelton has no penalties and a time of 77.4 seconds after the first round of competition.

Over the weekend at the annual CISO Rome Piazza di Siena, British rider Nick Skelton on Big Star won the City of Rome trophy. Since I don’t speak Italian it took me a while to realize that Big Star was the name of the horse and not a description of Nick Skelton, whose career in show jumping is legendary. In 2000 he suffered a fall that would have been career ending for most riders as he had both head and neck injuries. However he recovered from his injuries, returned to top form and continued his winning ways. The win on May 26, 2013 was actually his second time he bested international riders for the famed City of Rome Trophy. In 2006 he rode Arko III to victory at the same event, which is in its 81st year.

 

Nick Skelton over the first jump of the second round of the City of Rome trophy competition.

In second place was Italian rider, Emanuele Gaudiano, on Cocoshynsky. “Nick is the fastest rider in the world but I am in Rome and in front of the Italian crowd so I gave it my best. On the second line I made seven strides to the combination while Nick made six so I was a bit slower, but I finished second and I’m very happy!” he added. So was the Italian crowd.

 

Emanuele Gaudiano  is all smiles as he accepts the second place award.

The results of the municipal elections in Rome were announced after two days of voting on May 26 and 27. The final tally shows Ignazio Marino with 42.6% short of the 50% needed to avoid a run-off. So there will be another round of voting on June 9 and 10 between the two top vote getters. The person in second place was the incumbent, Giovanni Alemanno, who polled 30.27%. Coming in third was Marcello De Vito of the 5 Star Movement with 12.43% Alflo Marchini placed fourth with 9.48%. The natural place for the 5 Star Movement votes in the run-off would be the Democratic Party, but Marcello DeVito has said that he would not endorse either candidates, and may leave his ballot blank; so, it is unclear where the third place votes will go, if they vote at all.

 

In 2012 Rome’s Mayor (L with tricolor sash) presented the City of Rome Trophy to Ludger Beerbaum.

The one thing that is clear is the incumbent, a member of Berlusconi’s party (Il Popolo della Liberta – or PdL), has spent the most money on posters and bus ads. There were many of his ads on buses before the first round election, and less than 24 hours after the results from the first round were announced, new posters with his name were posted all over the city. One of these posters read, in bold letters, “Vince Chi Vota” Italian for “Who Votes Wins”. Of course, that applies for whoever votes, not just the members of  his party. Maybe it will be a spur for Marino voters also.  But, most likely, Alemanno sees increased voter participation as key to a win in the second round.

 

Ignazio Marino winner of the first round of voting for Mayor of Rome

However, I will still be rooting for Marino who on May 17, said, ‘Today is the day for the rights for lesbian, gay and trans. It is the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. It is not just a celebration to reflect, but to reaffirm our commitment to see gay people and transgender people are recognized with equal rights and dignity. Rome must accept this challenge.

As mayor my efforts will be to fight homophobia and transphobia and all other forms of violence and discrimination.

Starting with education to allow especially the young people to know and not discriminate. We will expand and strengthen training projects for employees of the public administration and society. And finally we will give importance to cultural policies, social and health education and the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases. We will put an end to all discrimination in the context of the skills that the state allocates to cities, we will create the ‘marriage certificate’ that recognizes administratively unmarried couples and their rights.” The bolding is mine because I think tht these are very significant points for a person who is running for Mayor of Rome, let alone the one with the most votes!

 

 

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Local 2 UNITE HERE Union Leader Mike Casey Denigrates Navy, Marines, Disabled Veterans: Sued by Centerplate For Violation of Federal Labor Law, Attempt to Eliminate Nonprofits In San Francisco AT&T Park Labor Dispute

 Local 2 UNITE HERE President Mike Casey: No Need for Military Veterans to Have Prosthetic Limbs

San Francisco– Centerplate, the concessionaire at AT&T Park today filed a dynamic lawsuit against Local 2 Unite Here union for violations of national labor laws and for attempting to block charity groups and nonprofits from raising money at the ballpark.

Centerplate said Local 2 is attempting to illegally force the San Francisco Giants into signing a “successor addendum” that would bind the baseball team, and any future concessionaire at AT&T Park, to the same terms Local 2 negotiates with Centerplate. This action is illegal under the federal labor laws, Centerplate officials said.

Normally, the legal charges as Centerplate made today are filed with the National Labor Relations Board, but Centerplate said immediate action is necessary by the legal system to protect the Giants, Centerplate and nonprofits from Local 2’s illegal activities, which could harm all the parties. The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco and seeks damages and declaratory relief.

Furthermore, the lawsuit says Local 2 President Michael Casey seeks to end Centerplate’s relationship with nonprofit organizations, forcing out such groups as St. Teresa Music and Arts, Leukemia Lymphoma Society, Athletes Committed to Academics, Berkeley Youth Alternatives, the United States Navy, and others nonprofits, from working at the stadium to raise money for their charitable works.

“Local 2’s President scoffed at the value of the (nonprofit) program at one point stating that the U.S. Navy did not need to work a stand at the ballpark to pay for prosthetic limbs for wounded Veterans,” the lawsuit states. “Casey also quipped about the Marines, “Why don’t you have them man a boat and they can sell hot dogs on the water,” according the lawsuit against Local 2.

The nonprofits make hundreds of thousands of dollars a year through partnering with Centerplate at Giants games by staffing concession stands and earning commissions based upon sales for their charitable work. Local 2 is now demanding Centerplate pay a penalty of $200 for each volunteer used for charitable work, which would eliminate Centerplate’s ability to partner with nonprofits.

“Local 2 has overstepped the bounds of the law and of humanity,” said a spokesman for Centerplate.  “They are illegally attempting to force the Giants into a labor dispute between Centerplate and the union and wrongly trying to harm the many nonprofits that rely upon income from their charitable work at AT&T Park. We are going to fight to win this battle for Centerplate, our employees, our customers and the charitable causes which we support.”

This past week, Local 2 union leaders walked out on contract negotiations with Centerplate and a Federal Mediator, refusing to accept or to even make an economic counter proposal and thereby denying, for the time being, Centerplate’s employees at AT&T Park the economic benefits that would flow from a new contract.

Local 2 Unite Here publically acknowledged that Centerplate’s employees are already the highest paid workers in the concession industry. In a YouTube video posted on May 12, the union spokesperson is quoted saying “so what if they’re (the employees) the best paid…that doesn’t mean anything.”

As a seasonal, part-time labor force, Centerplate’s employees currently earn the highest wages in the nation, making an average of approximately $15 to $20 per hour. These part time employees also receive some of the best benefits, with fully paid healthcare individually and for their families. To ensure seamless exceptional service for fans, Centerplate has made an offer than includes:

  • A 4.5 percent ratification bonus for those who worked more than 40 games in 2012
  • A 1.7 percent annual wage increase on top of the best compensation package in the industry
  • Increased contribution of 9.2 percent to the Unite Here benefit plans
  • Employer paid health care for employees and their families

Since early this year, Centerplate has been in negotiations over a new contract. The previous one expired in 2010 but was continued from year to year when Unite Here failed to request new negotiations. Even after it sought to make changes to the existing agreement, Local 2 dragged its feet and delayed negotiations for months. Throughout this time, Centerplate has been encouraging Local 2 to move quickly to find a solution.

“Nothing is more important to Centerplate than our employee partners and the customer service experience we provide guests. Local 2’s threats are an attack against our guests and the community groups we partner with at AT&T Park. It is time for Local 2 to come back to the table and focus on a realistic agreement,” spokesman Sam Singer said.

Centerplate said in the unfortunate event of a strike by Local 2 that “protecting the guest experience at AT&T Park is paramount and it will not be disrupted as the company has contingency plans in place in the event of a labor action.”

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San Francisco Giants AT&T Ballpark Union Local 2 Refuses to Negotiate, Walks Out on Centerplate, Federal Mediator

Unite Here Local 2 union leaders have walked out on contract negotiations, refusing to accept or to even make an economic counter proposal and thereby denying, for the time being, Centerplate’s employees at AT&T Park the economic benefits that would flow from a new contract.

The union unilaterally left negotiations with Centerplate and a federal mediator last Thursday, refusing to make a counter offer to Centerplate’s economic package, which improves upon the industry leading compensation already received by Centerplate’s employees.

Local 2 Unite Here has acknowledged AT&T Park employees are already the highest paid workers in the concession industry. In a YouTube video posted on May 12, the union spokesperson is quoted saying “so what if they’re (the employees) the best paid…that doesn’t mean anything.”

For AT&T Park’s seasonal, part-time labor force, Centerplate’s employees currently earn the highest wages in the nation, making an average of approximately $15 to $20 per hour. These part time employees also receive some of the best benefits, with fully paid healthcare individually and for their families. To ensure seamless exceptional service for fans, Centerplate has made an offer than includes:

  • A 4.5 percent ratification bonus for those who worked more than 40 games in 2012
  • A 1.7 percent annual wage increase on top of the best compensation package in the industry
  • Increased contribution of 9.2 percent to the Unite Here benefit plans
  • Employer paid health care for employees and their families

Since early this year, Centerplate has been in negotiations over a new contract. The previous one expired in 2010 but was continued from year to year when Unite Here failed to request new negotiations. Even after it sought to make changes to the existing agreement, Local 2 dragged its feet and delayed negotiations for months. Throughout this time, Centerplate has been encouraging Local 2 to move quickly to find a solution.

“Nothing is more important to Centerplate than our employee partners and the customer service experience we provide guests. It is time for Local 2 to come back to the table and focus on a realistic agreement,” spokesman Sam Singer said.

Centerplate said in the unfortunate event of a strike by Local 2 that “protecting the guest experience at AT&T is paramount and it will not be disrupted as the company has contingency plans in place in the event of a labor action.”

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America’s Cup Refuses to Pay Workers: Will This Impact Upcoming America’s Cup Finals in San Francisco This Year?

by Zennie Abraham

America’s Cup stiffs San Francisco Workers? Read on…

America’s Cup, SF. If you’re as excited about the event being here in San Francisco and the SF Bay Area as I am, then you expect the organization to get everything right, and maintain good relationships with everyone.

And if you’re as excited about the America’s Cup as I am, then you’re going to be as disappointed in America’s CUP CEO Stephen Barclay as I am after you read my blog post.

According to numerous reports and SF City Hall sources, America’s Cup CEO Stephen Barclay has not authorized the San Francisco America’s Cup organization to pay full contracted union wages to San Francisco-based businesses – in particular, Hartmann Studios.

Hartmann Studios is under contract with America’s Cup Event Authority to set up events related to and help stage the races at the center of what’s called “America’s Cup.” San Francisco ChronicleColumnists Matier and Ross reported today that the America’s Cup Event Authority owes Hartmann Studios almost half-a-million, or $400,000 in unpaid not including the $56,000 in administrative costs the City and County of San Francisco has incurred to date. That’s a total of $456,000.

Matier and Ross quote America’s CUP CEO Stephen Barclay as saying “I’m absolutely unaware of this. I’m staggered.”

Really?

Not according to an extensive email letter dated Sep 25, 2012, and titled “Budget Discussion.” The email specifically mentioned the contracted union wages, or “prevailing wages” that the America’s Cup Event Authority has to pay San Francisco organizations like Hartmann Studios.

The email was from Hartmann Studios President Mark Guelfi, and to Mirko Groeschner, the person’s who’s name is on a number of America’s Cup communications and is Marketing Director of BMW ORACLE Racing, and it was copied for Rosie Spaulding, who manages events for America’s Cup, and for Sam Hollis, America’s Cup Event Authority General Counsel (he’s their lawyer who previously worked on London’s 2012 Olympics Bid before then working for the America’s Cup).

Given that the “Budget Discussion” was with three top America’s Cup executives, and that they all report to and work with America’s CUP CEO Stephen Barclay, for Mr. Barclay to tell Matier and Ross that he’s “absolutely unaware of this” and that he’s “staggered” stretches the imagination.

Indeed, read on and you’ll see the smoking gun that points to this blogger’s assertion that Barclay did know about the prevailing wage costs and the monies owed both Hartmann Studios and The City and County of San Francisco.

Here’s the email, with the email addresses removed:

From: Mark Guelfi 
Date: Tue, Sep 25, 2012 at 6:37 AM
Subject: Re: Budget discussion
To: Mirko Groeschner
Cc: Keith Lovitt, Rosie Spaulding , Sam Hollis , *Matt Guelfi Guelfi , *Mike Guelfi Guelfi

Mirko -

Thanks for sending. I am always happy to discuss budgets and hope I was able to clear up some of your questions on our call Sunday morning. I circled back with Keith yesterday and reviewed the budget. Please see below for responses to your questions.

Shipping – These numbers come directly from our vendors to transport product to and from the venue. There is a significant amount of product ordered, which requires tractor trailer transporting. With fuel prices increasing these numbers are becoming significant costs to all of our budgets. We ask our vendors to break out their proposals by equipment, staff, labor and trucking/shipping so we can see and better analyze the detail.

Hartmann Production Staff – With regards to your call-out of Ian’s days onsite, I had the same question. Keith explained that Ian will be managing the load-out of the Yacht Club Peninsula Hospitality, which is planned to extend to October 15th. All of our pre-production time are estimates based on the scope of the project and will be billed as actuals once the project is complete although I don’t expect any surprises.

Hotel Nights/Per Diem/Travel – We normally use 100 percent local staff — both full time and those on our extended project team — however, there is nobody “left standing” in the Bay Area that is available. The city is extremely busy during the next ACWS race with Fleet Week, Blue Grass Festival, the 49ers Game, Giants Playoff Game, North Beach Festival not to mention Oracle OpenWorld. We would have had to book production staff 6 to 8 months ago in order to hire locally. Hotel costs are also significantly higher due to demand during this time period. Oracle OpenWorld alone sells out the entire city and much of the Bay Area. August costs in comparison were about half of what we are paying in October.

Parking Attendants – This was a request from Rosie via the city back in August, encouraging a “friendly face” assisting your security team in directing traffic. The request was made again for the October event.

Daily Maintenance – This was a carry over from August for litter pick-up/general cleaning for all tents on a daily basis. Rosie has since requested that this role is folded under the “greeners” that ACEA is hiring and will be removed on the budget revision.

Audio Labor – This is for the peninsula audio system, which runs the entire length of the peninsula…Nearly a mile, which requires running cable that distance. The 20k number is actually for the install, onsite crew to run the system for the entire week, and to strike the equipment post event. Labor is billed on per day basis, which is why you see a qty of 9…(1 day install, 7 day show (includes rehearsal day), 1 day strike. With the technical aspects of the requests, you have to have crew onsite managing the equipment/show.

Power – The significant portion of this cost, is again labor. Running cable, installing, onsite techs adds up quickly. Fuel is also factored in and with the economic climate this has a significant impact on costs. John Briggs with Race Management has worked directly with our technical director to ensure we are as efficient as possible when spec’ing this equipment.

As I mentioned, labor is a significant part of all event budgets, especially when there are Union Requirements and Prevailing Wage implications. Hartmann’s model is to pass along our costs directly to our clients, plus our management fee (at Oracle discount rate) and we work hard to create relationships with vendors to reduce these costs as much as possible for our clients. I agree with you. We do need to find a way to come up with a plan much further in advance so that we can minimize these costs for future events.

I will follow up, as promised, and send a separate note to you, Sam, Rosie, Keith and I will probably copy Stephen in regards to my concerns about the prevailing wage language in your contract with the City of San Francisco and the Port. The cost of labor is going to skyrocket. A laborer that we are currently paying $12 to $15 to $18 per hour is going to get paid somewhere between $50 and $85 per hour.

As you know, we are responding to the City’s Labor Standards Department’s investigation of labor rates that were paid by my company and by our subcontractors at the August race. We sent a very large stack of payroll records and copies of cancelled payroll checks to the department last week. We have since confirmed that they have received. This department has also been in touch directly with our subcontractors and they have all agreed to supply the same information. We expect the Labor Standards Department to come back to us and identify what the prevailing rate are for each discipline i.e. tenting, staging, janitorial, etc.

We will certainly have a significant amount of of back pay that we will need to send to most of the people that worked on the August project and on the upcoming October project. We are not able to pay prevailing wage at the next race since the Labor Standards Department has not yet given us the prevailing wage rates. We will provide them with our records after the race and wait for them to come back to us. This is a very time consuming process to say the least.

We will not have liability in regards to any theatrical/stagehand work since we gave all of this work to the local stagehand union, IATSE Local 16. Additionally, Hartmann Staff and any vendor staff that performed theatrical work and was not a member of the local, was paid at prevailing rates so we are covered on this front. No back pay will be required.

Please know that the final budgets that we submitted for the August events and the proposed budgets that we have prepared for the October events do not completely reflect prevailing wage. We will submit a invoice in October or November for the balance due based on the direction that we get from the City.

I hope this helps. I am available to discuss today if you have some time to discuss. I can be reached on cell.

Best Regards,
Mark Guelfi

In his response to Mark Guelfi’s email two things become obvious: first, that it becomes clear that Mirko Groeschner has issues with the union wages, and was already seeking a way to lower costs for the America’s Cup event, and second, that he was going to tell Mr. Barclay about it – he refers to him as “Stephen” – as well as Mr. Hollis, or “Sam,” the general counsel. Here’s Mirko Groeschner’s response email:

Hi Mark,

thanks for being available this morning to talk.

Looked more intensively at the budget again. Below are a few points where I would question some of the items or at least – I am not sure I understand fully the reasoning.

Perhaps we have a chance to talk towards the beginning of the week again.

Shipping: 21.400 USD. Do we need that much?
Hartmann Production Staff: as we discussed, pls have a look at the quantities again
Hotel nights, per diem and travel for crew: this is 44.000 USD, can we not have local crew that goes home each day?
Parking Attendant: Do we need that? Almost 6.500 USD
Daily Maintenance: 22.000 USD (what are these guys doing?)
Audio Labor: it says 1 day installation but still there are 20.000 USD – is that ok?
Power: when I add all costs for Labour, generators, shipping, electrician etc. I arrive at an amount of almost 100k USD….

Secondly, I will send to Stephen and Sam a note considering labour costs.

For labour in some areas it looks that we pay about 180.000 EUR. In more detail there is:

Stage Labour: 83.000 USD
Power distribution Labour: 55.100 USD
Audio Labour: 20.000 USD
Daily Maintenance: 22.000 USD

We need to find a way to plan all that a little more in advance and reduce some of these costs to make our events affordable.

Best, Mirko

So from this, it’s clear that America’s CUP CEO Stephen Barclay either wasn’t forthcoming with Matier and Ross or his deputy Mirko Groeschner withheld the information from him – neither direction is a good one, but I’m not believing that Mirko failed to tell Stephen about this issue . Again, the email exchange happened seven months ago – that’s ample time for Mr. Barclay to have known about the wage cost issue, and have done something about it.

As of this writing, it appears the something was to pay nothing to either Hartmann Productions or the City and County of San Francisco.

Stay tuned.

Originally published at: http://www.zennie62blog.com/

 

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Greedy San Francisco Musicians Turn Down Federal Mediator Recommendation of Cooling Off Period, Forcing SF Symphony to Cancel New York Performances

The Musicians of the San Francisco Symphony (who make $165,000 annually, plus platinum healthcare and pension funds and don’t even work 12 months) have rejected a federal mediator’s proposal to resume playing concerts during a “cooling off” period while negotiations over the collective bargaining agreement continue. The Symphony’s administration was willing to abide by the federal mediator’s recommendation, based on developments over the past three days of talks.

As a result of the musicians’ continuing work stoppage, the orchestra’s three-city East Coast tour on March 20-23 will not go forward.  The tour was set to include performances at Carnegie Hall March 20 and 21, the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark on March 22, and the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. on March 23. The ongoing five-day musicians’ strike has already forced cancellations of four concerts in San Francisco.

Over the past three days of lengthy negotiations, overseen by a federal mediator, the musicians’ union rejected the latest administration proposals and continued their strike.

Several proposals by the administration have been rejected by the musicians’ union.  The most recent proposal offered increases in musician compensation to achieve a new annual minimum salary of $145,979 with annual increases of 1% and 2% for the latest two-year proposal.  Contractual benefits also included a $74,000 maximum annual pension, 10 weeks paid vacation, and full coverage health care plan options with no monthly premium contributions for musicians and their families for three of the four options.  Additional compensation for most active musicians also includes radio payments, over-scale, and seniority pay which raises the current average pay for SFS musicians to over $165,000.

“We are deeply disappointed that the musicians have continued to reject proposals for a new agreement and that the musicians will not proceed with our planned East Coast tour,” said Brent Assink, Executive Director of the San Francisco Symphony.  “We have negotiated in good faith since September, have shared volumes of financial information, and have offered many different proposals that we had hoped would lead to a new agreement by this time.  We will continue to work hard to resolve this situation.”

In the current economic environment, the San Francisco Symphony is facing the same challenges that many other orchestras and arts organizations around the country are facing.  For all four years of its most recent collective bargaining agreement with its musicians, operating expenses have outpaced operating income.  The Orchestra has incurred an operating deficit in each of those years.

As a non-profit organization, the Symphony’s financial statements are audited annually by an independent certified public accounting firm.  These statements and related tax filings are publicly available in accordance with the law.  Since negotiations began, the administration has been cooperative in sharing financial records and responded to the union’s requests for information in a timely manner.  Since September, that includes over 50 formal requests for which over 500 pages of documentation were provided.

The administration has also offered to cooperate with third party financial consultants designated by the musicians to review the audited financial statements.  In addition, the administration had offered the musicians the opportunity to have two members join the organization’s Audit Committee of the Board of Governors.

The administration remains willing to continue negotiations with the musicians’ union under the auspices of a federal mediator in an effort to achieve a mutually agreeable contract. The administration will continue to work with the musicians to respond to requests for information, including requests about the Symphony’s finances.

Today’s rejection of the administration’s latest proposal also represents the latest in a series of delays by the musicians’ union in working with the administration on an agreement.  While the administration provided its first proposal October 15, 2012 and offered six subsequent proposals, the musicians’ union did not formally respond to any administration proposal until mid-January 2013. The union did not formally respond to any of this information until just over 60 days ago, weeks after the November 24, 2013 expiration of the four-year contract.

Media may contact Oliver Theil, SFS Director of Communications, for more details on the negotiations at (415) 264-1241, by email atotheil@sfsymphony.org, or visit www.sfsymphony.org/press.

 

For Ticketholders to Cancelled Concerts in San Francisco:

Refunds and exchanges will be offered for all cancelled Davies Symphony Hall concerts. We deeply appreciate your patience during this difficult time.

We apologize again for the inconvenience. Our Box Office opens at 10am on Monday and can help you with the following options for your tickets:

  • Exchange your tickets for another San Francisco Symphony performance this season
  • Donate your tickets, as the total ticket value is tax deductible to the extent permitted by law
  • Exchange your tickets for a Gift Certificate, which can be used at any time
  • Receive a refund for the value of the ticket

Please contact the San Francisco Symphony Box Office with your preferred option in the following ways:

  • email at tickets@sfsymphony.org and include your name and email address, and your preferred option
  • by phone at (415) 864-6000
  • in person at the Box Office on Grove St., between Van Ness and Franklin.

Box office hours this week are 10am – 6pm Monday – Friday, Saturday Noon – 6pm

 

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Singer Associates Public Relations in San Francisco Wins National Awards as PR Agency of the Year, Issues Management, Media Relations Awards

Sam Singer of Singer Associates Public Relations San Francisco

Singer Associates public relations and public affairs in San Francisco was awarded national honors this week for its work with the City of San Bruno to gain $70 million in restitution for the city after the PG&E explosion and fire of Sept. 9, 2010. Singer received both the award for best issues management campaign and best media relations campaign at a ceremony in Washington, D.C.

“We are humbled to receive these awards on behalf of our client,” said Sam Singer, president of Singer Associates.  “Our victory was made possible by the work of Mayor Jim Ruane and the City Council of San Bruno, City Manager Connie Jackson, the people of San Bruno, and the law firm of Meyers Nave and its attorneys Steven Meyers and Britt Strottman, and the investment firm of Prager & Co. and its senior advisor Craig Bettencourt,” he said.

PRNews is one of the public relations leading trade publications in New York for professionals in the field of public relations, public affairs, issues management, corporate social responsibility, government relations and non-profit public relations and communications.

Singer’s PRNews awards were won on the heels of the PRWeek Awards in New York City where Singer Associates was selected as the runner up for “Best Public Relations Agency of the Year.” This is the eighth time in 10 years that the agency has been a finalist for this honor, ranking it consistently as one of the nation’s top public relations and public affairs agencies.

Headquartered in San Francisco, Singer Associates is a leading public relations and digital communications agency in California and the western United States specializing in issues management, public affairs, crisis communications,  and litigation, labor relations, healthcare, transportation, commercial and residential real estate, energy, industrial, agricultural, academic and educational and employee communications. Singer agency clients include Chevron, Recology, Stanford Hospitals & Clinics, Transbay Joint Powers Authority, Oracle, The Irvine Co., Golden State Warriors, Gladstone Institutes, City of Oakland, California Pacific Medical Center, Children’s Hospital of Oakland, Calpine, AIMCO, AutoReturn, Sims Metal Management, Airbnb, BART, AC Transit, CalTrain, City of San Bruno, City of Los Angeles,  and others.

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Pistorius Rebutes Murder Charge in Court

By LYDIA POLGREEN and ALAN COWELL From the New York Times

PRETORIA, South Africa — Facing a charge of premeditated murder in the death of his girlfriend, Oscar Pistorius, the double amputee track star and one of the world’s best-known athletes, denied on Tuesday that he had intended to take her life when he opened fire at a closed bathroom door at his home last week, saying he did not know that she was on the other side.

“I fail to understand how I could be charged with murder, let alone premeditated,” he said in an affidavit read to the packed courtroom by his defense lawyer, Barry Roux, “I had no intention to kill my girlfriend.”

His assertion contradicted an earlier accusation from the prosecutor, Gerrie Nel, that Mr. Pistorius committed premeditated murder when he rose from his bed, pulled on artificial legs, walked more than 20 feet from his bedroom and pumped four bullets into the door, three of which struck his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, on the other side.

It was the first time that either the prosecution or Mr. Pistorius had publicly provided details of their radically divergent accounts of a killing that has shocked the nation and made news around the world.

The case broke open last Thursday when the police arrived at Mr. Pistorius’s house in a gated community here in Pretoria to find Ms. Steenkamp dead from gunshot wounds.

Developments since then have been all the more dramatic, since Mr. Pistorius had been an emblem of triumph over adversity, his sporting achievement on a world stage blending with the glamour of celebrity at home. Mr. Pistorius, 26, and Ms. Steenkamp, 29, a model and law school graduate, had been depicted as a golden couple.

“We were deeply in love and I could not be happier,” said Mr. Pistorius’s affidavit, read at a bail hearing. “I know she felt the same way.” As it was read out loud, the athlete wept so uncontrollably that the magistrate, Desmond Nair, ordered a brief recess to permit him to regain his composure.

Magistrate Nair adjourned the case until Wednesday without ruling on whether the athlete would be granted bail.

Mr. Pistorius said he and Ms. Steenkamp had gone to bed early on Wednesday night, but in the middle of the night he heard a noise from the bathroom and went to investigate on his stumps, not his artificial legs.

“I am acutely aware of violent crime being committed by intruders entering homes,” he said in the affidavit. “I have received death threats before. I have also been a victim of violence and of burglaries before. For that reason I kept my firearm, a 9 mm Parabellum, underneath my bed when I went to bed at night.”

He was nervous, he said, because the bathroom window did not have burglar bars and contractors who had been working there had left ladders behind.

The room was dark, he said, and he did not realize that Ms. Steenkamp was not in bed. He felt vulnerable and fearful without his prosthetics and opened fire at the door, he said, calling to Ms. Steenkamp to telephone the police.

Only then did he realize that she was not in bed, he said. He put on his artificial legs and tried to kick down the door before breaking it open with a cricket bat to discover Ms. Steenkamp.

He carried her downstairs, he said, and “she died in my arms.”

Earlier, Magistrate Nair said he could not exclude premeditation in the killing, so Mr. Pistorius’s bail application will be much more difficult. But he said he would consider downgrading the charges depending on evidence at subsequent hearings.

Mr. Nel said Ms. Steenkamp, who had just made her debut in a reality television show, had been in a tiny room measuring less than 20 square feet when the shots rang out. “She could not go anywhere,” he said. “It must have been horrific.”

“She locked the door for a purpose. We will get to that purpose,” he said.

But Mr. Roux, a lawyer representing Mr. Pistorius, said the defense would “submit that this is not a murder.” He said there was no evidence that Mr. Pistorius and Ms. Steenkamp had fought and no evidence of a motive. He also challenged the prosecution to produce a witness to corroborate its version of Mr. Pistorius’s actions.

“Scratch the veneer” of the prosecution case, he said, and there is no evidence to support it.

“All we really know is she locked herself behind the toilet door and she was shot,” Mr. Roux said.

Mr. Nel, the prosecutor, however, declared: “If I arm myself, walk a distance and murder a person, that is premeditated. The door is closed. There is no doubt. I walk seven meters and I kill.”

He added: “The motive is, ‘I want to kill.’ That’s it.”

If convicted of premeditated murder, Mr. Pistorius would face a mandatory life sentence, though under South African law he would be eligible for parole in 25 years at the latest. South Africa abolished the death penalty in 1995.

Mr. Pistorius was appearing in court for the second time since Friday. He arrived looking grim-faced, his jaw set. But, as during his earlier appearance, he broke down in tears when the prosecutor said that he had “killed an innocent woman.”

As the court went into a midday recess, Ms. Steenkamp’s private funeral service began in the southern coastal city of Port Elizabeth, her hometown, with six pallbearers carrying a coffin swathed in a white cloth and white flowers as mourners expressed dismay and rage. More than 100 relatives and friends attended the funeral at the Victoria Park crematorium.

“Why? Why my little girl? Why did this happen? Why did he do this?” June Steenkamp, the victim’s mother, told The Times of Johannesburg.

Gavin Venter, a former jockey who worked for the victim’s father, a horse trainer, said on Tuesday: “She was an angel. She was so soft, so innocent. Such a lovely person. It’s just sad that this could happen to somebody so good.”

The killing has stunned a nation that had elevated Mr. Pistorius as an emblem of the ability to overcome acute adversity and a symbol of South Africa’s ability to project its achievements onto the world stage.

Mr. Pistorius was born without fibula bones and both of his legs were amputated below the knee as an infant. But he became a Paralympic champion and the first Paralympic sprinter to compete against able-bodied athletes at the 2012 London Olympics.

But several companies have now withdrawn lucrative sponsorships and his case has played into an emotional debate in South Africa about violence against women.

Members of the Women’s League of the ruling African National Congress protested outside the building, waving placards saying “No Bail for Pistorius,” Reuters reported.

Lydia Polgreen reported from Pretoria, and Alan Cowell from London.

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On Scene Bill Wilson America’s Cup Youth in Action

 

Russell Coutts

An award-winning line-up of sailors from ORACLE TEAM USA and Artemis Racing greeted the youth sailors competing in the first selection series of the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup Wednesday, February13  at a special media function.

The stars – Russell Coutts, Jimmy Spithill, Ben Ainslie, Iain Percy and Nathan Outteridge – together have a collected resume beyond excellence: five America’s Cup victories, 14 Olympic medals and countless other titles.

Coutts might be the most experienced of the group with four America’s Cup victories to his credit, but it was Spithill who put the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup into perspective.

Eric Heil

“My pathway to the America’s Cup was one of good luck,” said ORACLE TEAM USA skipper Jimmy Spithill, who at age 30 in 2010 became the youngest skipper to ever win the America’s Cup.

“When I was a youth sailor there wasn’t a clear pathway to the Cup. But the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup gives these guys a great opportunity, and the game’s opened up to much wider participation,” said the now 33-year-old Spithill. “Their level of organization is impressive.”

Ben Ainsile

Added Ainslie, the four-time Olympic gold medalist: “The Olympics used to be the avenue to get into professional sailing and the America’s Cup. But now the Cup is becoming more accessible for youth sailors, and that’s great for the sport.”   The Red Bull Youth America’s Cup has been developed to give youth sailors a pathway to the America’s Cup. In years past youth sailors have had a difficult task ascending the hierarchy of an America’s Cup team. Youth sailors simply weren’t viewed as having enough experience to compete at the high level demanded by America’s Cup crews. The Red Bull Youth America’s Cup aims to change that.

Jimmy Spithill

“It’s been very exciting to come here and get an opportunity to race the AC45. It’s just fantastic,” said Erik Heil, the 23-year-old helmsman for Germany’s STG/NRV team. “But at the same time it’s disappointing that we only get one week here. We’d like to have more time.”

Teams from New Zealand (left), Germany (center) and Australia (right) compete during trials

STG/NRV is one of six teams participating in the first selection series. Another six teams are scheduled for the second series next week, Feb. 18-24, after which at least four teams will be selected for the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup scheduled Sept. 1-4.

Hans-Peter Steinacher

“The Red Bull Youth America’s Cup is the best chance for young sailors to make history,” said Hans-Peter Steinacher, one of the Red Bull sailing directors. “We will select the best of the best.”

The six teams in this first selection series represent Australia, Austria, Denmark, Germany, New Zealand and South Africa. Some of the crews have put up their own money to enter the selection series, while others have raised money to help offset the costs.

All of them have shown more skill and poise than expected, which could be considered surprising given that most of the sailors have raced one-design dinghies and not the powerful AC45 that is used at the events of the America’s Cup World Series.

Philip Buhl

“Yesterday in the big breeze, around 17 knots, it was more difficult than I expected,” said Philip Buhl of STG/NRV, a champion Laser sailor. “Every time we completed one maneuver we had to prepare for the next, there was no time to catch your breath.”

The teams have been sharing San Francisco Bay with ORACLE TEAM USA and Artemis Racing, which have been practicing on their AC72s the past couple of days. As if the AC45s weren’t captivating enough, the sight of AC72s speeding past on foiling daggerboards has left the youths’ mouths agape.

“We want to push the AC45s, but yesterday we had to decide whether to keep pushing or stop and watch the 72s sail by,” said Buhl. “At home we’d say it was a ‘problem of luxury.’”

 

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Mayor Lee & Atlanta Mayor Reed Make Friendly Wager On NFC Championship Game


Losing City Will Light its City Hall in the Winning Team’s Colors & Fly the Winning Team’s Flag

Today Mayor Edwin M. Lee and Mayor Kasim Reed of Atlanta agreed to a friendly wager on the outcome of this weekend’s NFC Championship game. The San Francisco 49ers will play the Atlanta Falcons in Atlanta at 12:00 p.m. Pacific time, with the winning team advancing on to Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans on February 3rd.

The losing Mayor will light up his City Hall for a night in the winning team’s colors – Red & Gold on the Atlanta City Hall if the Niners win and Red & White on the San Francisco City Hall if the Falcons prevail. The losing Mayor will also fly the flag of the winning team on a City Hall flagpole for a day.

In addition, San Francisco is wagering 25 pounds of Philz Coffee against Atlanta, and Atlanta is wagering a case of Georgia peaches against San Francisco.

“The Niners are on a roll – with an unstoppable quarterback, incredible linemen, a deep secondary and talented wide receivers,” said Mayor Lee. “The Quest for Six is well underway, and San Franciscans watched and celebrated as the 49ers dismantled the Packers last weekend in impressive fashion. I’m certain that they’ll roll right through the Falcons as well. Atlanta’s City Hall will look great awash in Red & Gold.”

“The Atlanta Falcons have been unstoppable all season long, and this Sunday will be no different,” said Mayor Kasim Reed. “With an explosive offense and dynamic playmakers, I’m confident that our Falcons will ‘Rise Up’ and defeat the 49ers on Sunday.”

The 49ers reached the NFC Championship game for the second season in a row after defeating the Green Bay Packers last Sunday at Candlestick Park by a score of 45-31. The Falcons, the No. 1 overall ranked team in the NFC, beat the Seattle Seahawks last week in an exciting 30-28 contest that came down to a last-minute Atlanta field goal to win the game. This is the first meeting of the 49ers and Falcons in the 2012/2013 season.

Mayor Lee is encouraging 49ers fans from across the Bay Area to frequent their neighborhood establishments to watch the NFC Championship game, and no matter what the outcome, to treat our City with dignity and respect.

Last week, Mayor Lee raised the 49ers team flag off City Hall’s balcony and ordered City Hall, Coit Tower, Ferry Building and the International Terminal at San Francisco International Airport (SFO) lit in Red & Gold to reflect the City’s enthusiasm and passion for the San Francisco 49ers.

 

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Legendary Sailing Yacht Returns to SF Bay to Raise Funds in Fight to Cure Leukemia & Lymphoma  

October 21 Regatta pits Dorade’s All-Female Crew led by
JJ Fetter against Ted Turner on Santana

Dorade(www.dorade.org): In 1936 Dorade helped put the Saint Francis Yacht Club on the map, winning the prestigious and demanding TransPacific race to Honolulu.  This weekend she returns to San Francisco to sail under the St Francis burgee once again in the seventh annual Leukemia Cup Regattataking place on Sunday, October 21. JJ Fetter, a four-time Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year, will lead an all-female, all-star crew aboard Dorade, sailing in the invitation-only classic yacht division against another historic racing yacht, Santana,helmed by Ted Turner.

“What a perfect way to bring Dorade home,” said Doradeowner Matt Brooks. “She is the only boat to have ever won, handily, every major ocean race; and even today, she’s still competing and winning in races from Newport to the Caribbean, and now here on San Francisco Bay.”

Dorade was designed by the legendary Olin Stephens, creatorof six out of seven successful America’s Cup defenders between 1958 and 1980. Olin and his brother Rod Stephens designed and built Dorade in 1929.  In 1931 – at the ages of 20 and 22 – they sailed Dorade in the TransAtlantic Race, winning against a fleet of much larger boats and more experienced crews.  That win was followed by an extraordinary series of victories in the Fastnet, Cowles, and Bermuda races.  In 1936 San Francisco’s Jim Flood purchased Dorade and brought her to San Francisco.  Since then, she has changed owners many times, sailing the west coast, Europe, and most recently in Newport, Rhode Island.

In 2010, Brooks and his wife Pam Rorke Levy went to Newport in search of a classic yacht, and were immediately entranced by Dorade’s history and pedigree.  Rather than keep her as a museum piece, however, the pair decided to do something that many thought was impossible: restore her to full ocean-racing capacity.

“We needed to toughen up Dorade herself, but we also needed to develop a stable of crew members with the right skills, chemistry and experience to race a classic boat in trans-oceanic races.” said Brooks. “Races like the Leukemia Cup help us prepare both the boat and our crew for the kind of long-range sailing she hasn’t seen in decades, keeping in mind that while she may be game, she is also an eighty-year-old lady.”

“Our goal is to repeat all of her early ocean races, including Newport-Bermuda which we completed this past this June, the TransPac and Newport-Bermuda next year, and in 2015 the TransAtlantic, Fastnet, and Cowes,” said Dorade owner Pam Rorke Levy. “In her early years, Dorade won all of these ocean races, a record that stands unbeaten today. We are pleased and honored that her return to the Bay begins with the Leukemia Cup Regatta.”

Along with Levy and Fetter, Dorade’s crew for the Leukemia Cup is an all-star team comprised of Liz Baylis, Paige Brooks, Melinda Erkelens, Melissa Purdy Feagin, Laurel Gaudet, Pam Healy, Genny Tulloch  and Sally Lindsay Honey – wife ofAmerica’s Cup technology director Stan Honey.

A native of San Leandro, California, Brooks learned to sail in Monterey Bay as a boy, and went on to race on San Francisco Bay on his first yacht Quarter Pounder, sailing under the St. Francis flag. Brooks is also a well-known mountain guide, and over the past forty years has racked up first ascents in the Sierra and the French alps, established a mountaineering equipment company, and has been honored with a Presidential Gold Medal and a lifetime achievement award from the American Mountain Guides Association. Since soloing as a pilot at age 13, Brooks has also set many world records in the air, including the record time for circumnavigating the globe (westward) and flying westward across the US, all in a specially equipped Citation business jet.  Levy is an Emmy-winning filmmaker and creative director, well known to Bay Area audiences and the arts community for creating and producing such shows as KQED’s arts program Spark.

About The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society ® (LLS):
The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society ® (LLS) is the world’s largest voluntary health agency dedicated to blood cancer. The LLS mission: Cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease and myeloma, and improve the quality of life of patients and their families. LLS funds lifesaving blood cancer research around the world and provides free information and support services.  Founded in 1949 and headquartered in White Plains, NY, LLS has chapters throughout the United States and Canada. www.lls.org

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Giants announce tentative 2013 regular season schedule

San Francisco will play AL East in Interleague and four rivalry games against Oakland

 The San Francisco Giants are scheduled to begin their 2013 campaign at the Los Angeles Dodgers on Tuesday, April 2 and play their home opener against the St. Louis Cardinals on Friday, April 5, the club announced today.

Following a brief three game road trip to Los Angeles from April 2-4, the Giants will return to the Shores of McCovey Cove for their first homestand of the year, a three-game series vs. the Cardinals (April 5-7) and a three-game set against the Colorado Rockies (April 8-10).

The 2013 baseball schedule has undergone significant changes necessitated by the move of the Houston Astros from the National League to the American League. There will now be at least one interleague game every day of the season (including opening day and the final regular season game).

In previous years the Giants played 18 games against each of their four National League West rivals – Arizona, Colorado, Los Angeles and San Diego – they will now play 19 games against each of those teams.

The Giants will face the American League East in interleague, playing a home-and-road series with the Toronto Blue Jays (May 14-15 at Rogers Centre; June 4-5 at AT&T Park), a home series with the Baltimore Orioles (August 9-11) and Boston Red Sox (August 19-21) and road series with the Tampa Bay Rays (August 2-4) and New York Yankees (September 20-22). A four-game series between the Giants and A’s will take place May 27-30, with the first two games at AT&T Park (May 27-28) and the next two at Oakland Coliseum (May 29-30).

Additional highlights of the San Francisco Giants’ 2013 campaign include:

  • 13 home weekends in all, including a pair of weekend sets against the Dodgers (May 3-5; July 5-7) and one against the Cubs (July 26-28) and Orioles (August 9-11).
  • The longest homestand of the season is a 10-game set from May 3-12 against the Dodgers (May 3-5), Phillies (May 6-8) and Braves (May 9-12). Their shortest home stand is a brief two-game series against the Blue Jays, June 4-5.
  • The Giants will face the Dodgers three times at AT&T Park: May 3-5, July 5-7 and Sept. 24-26.
  • The Giants will play 14 of 16 games on the road from May 29-June 16 and will have a pair of 10-game road trips from June 24-July 4 (at Los Angeles, Colorado, Cincinnati) and Sept. 12-22 (at Los Angeles, New York-NL, New York-AL). They spend an entire week in New York City, playing the Mets (Sept. 17-19) and Yankees (Sept. 20-22).
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