Archive | Travel

Editorial: Good Riddance to George Lucas Vanity Museum: Chicago Be Careful What you Pray For

 

Alfred E. Neuman artwork is part of George Lucas 'art collection."

Alfred E. Neuman artwork is part of George Lucas “art collection.”

 

It was great to read the San Francisco Chronicle today and see two of its leading writers, Chuck Nevius and John King, both essentially say “Hasta la Vista, Baby!” to the vanity museum that Star Wars filmmaker George Lucas wanted to build in San Francisco’s Presidio.

The real story isn’t that Chicago “won” the Lucas Cultural Arts Museum, but rather that San Francisco was victorious in rejecting a poorly-designed monstrosity that would have housed the personal collection of George Lucas’ kitschy art collection.  Chicago has “won” Lucas’ oversized ego, his childish behavior, his grumpy development team, and his collection of art that would be best exhibited in a suburban mall.

All we can say is: Thank goodness for the leadership of the Presidio Trust which turned down this monument to Lucas’ bad taste.

The Presidio park is a jewel and is enjoying nearly 20 years of success by doing the right thing and planning properly for this National Landmark and Bay Area treasure.  The cheap and cheesy museum proposed by Lucas didn’t belong on a bluff overlooking the Bay, the Golden Gate Bridge and the Pacific Ocean.  We should all thank The Presidio Trust for acting in the best interest of the public and not in the interest of a vein Hollywood millionaire and rejecting what Chicago has all-too-quickly accepted.

Bravo Presidio Trust. Good luck Chicago.

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New Program in China for High School and College Students to Travel with Stanford Lecturers to Learn About Urban Development

A new two-week Global Leadership program in China for English-speaking high school and college students is accepting applications for summer 2014.  Walking Tree Travel, an organization that specializes in service, conservation, and leadership programs in 18 countries, just announced the China Global Leadership Program itinerary.  The program includes stops in four of China’s most famous and fascinating cities – Hong Kong, Beijing, Shenzhen and Guangzhou. On this program, participants will get an inside look at changing social and economic environments in these cities, and learn how urban planners are dealing with unprecedented population growth.

“We have just passed the halfway mark and 51% of the earth’s population now live in urban environments,” said Deland Chan, Stanford University Urban Planning Lecturer and guide for the China Global Leadership Program.  “This program is an excellent start for young people who are looking to lead in areas of communications and city planning.  This program gives an insider’s look at a growing economy with an emphasis on urban sustainability.

The program will take students to four very different urban centers in China, each facing challenges of employment, sustainability, environmental protection, and transportation.  Students will get to engage with important current events, all while enjoying Chinese culture, entertainment, and food. Chan’s fellow guide Kevin Hsu (also a Lecturer in the Urban Planning Department of Stanford University), added that  “this will be a tour of China for future leaders who want an incredible cultural experience and want to prepare for the challenges of the 21st Century by honing their leadership, problem solving, and communications skills.”

The 15-day program is from June 30 – July 15, 2014.  For additional information, contact Walking Tree Travel at 303-242-8541 or visit the website at www.walkingtree.org.

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Ecuador Plaintiffs, Steven Donziger, Committed Fraud against Chevron in Ecuador Case

Berlinger and Donziger

Joe Berlinger’s (left) Film “Crude,” paid for by Ecuador Plaintiff Attorney Steven Donziger, ultimately led to a crushing victory for Chevron Corporation in the Ecuador Case

Chevron Corporation won a major victory today when a New York federal judge ruled that the case against the oil company in Ecuador was procured by fraud.

U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan in New York found that lead plaintiff attorney Steven Donziger used bribery, coercion, fraud and other illegal means to create a fraudulent case against Chevron in Ecuador.

Donziger, whose fraudulent lawsuit was supported by environmental organizations such as AmazonWatch in San Francisco, Rainforest Action Network, Earthrights International, and other alleged environmental groups, might have gotten away with the crime if it were not for the sloppy work of Hollywood movie director Joe Berlinger.

Berlinger, who was paid by the plaintiffs to produce a film that lambasted Chevron for alleged pollution in Ecuador, ultimately and ironically, became Chevron’s savior.

Berlinger’s movie “Crude” produced evidence that led Chevron to its important court victory today in New York.

In making his ruling, Judge Kaplan  said Donziger and the Ecuador plaintiffs used “corrupt means” to secure a multi-billion-dollar pollution judgment against Chevron Corp in Ecuador, giving a major setback for attorneys hoping to collect on the award.

Kaplan said he found “clear and convincing evidence” that attorney Steven Donziger’s legal team bribed an Ecuadorean judge to issue an $18 billion judgment against the oil company in 2011.

The villagers had said Texaco, later acquired by Chevron, contaminated an oil field in northeastern Ecuador between 1964 and 1992.  Ecuador’s high court cut the judgment to $9.5 billion last year.

Kaplan’s decision bars Donziger and environmental groups like AmazonWatch and public relations agent Karen Hinton from enforcing the Ecuadorean ruling in the United States. It may also give Chevron legal ammunition in other countries where the plaintiffs could try to go after Chevron’s assets.

At a six-week trial last year, Chevron accused Donziger of fraud and racketeering and said Texaco cleaned up the site, known as Lago Agrio, before handing it over to a state-controlled entity.

Below is the full text of U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan’s opening judgement today against Steven Donziger and the Ecuador plaintiffs:

“Steven Donziger, a New York City lawyer, led a group of American and Ecuadorian lawyers who brought an action in Ecuador (the “Lago Agrio” case) in the names of 47 plaintiffs (the“Lago Agrio Plaintiffs” or “LAPs”), on behalf of thousands of indigenous peoples of the Orienté region of Ecuador, against Chevron Corporation (“Chevron”).

They claimed that Chevron was responsible for extensive environmental damage caused by oil activities of Texaco, Inc. (“Texaco”), that ended more than twenty years ago and long before Chevron acquired Texaco’s stock.

After years of pressuring Chevron to settle by a variety of both legitimate and illegitimate means, Donziger and his clients obtained a multibillion dollar judgment (the“Judgment”) in the Ecuadorian courts and now seek to enforce it around the world.

Chevron then brought this action, contending among other things that the Judgment was procured by fraud.  Following a full trial, it now seeks equitable relief against Donziger and the two of his Ecuadorian clients who defended this case in order to prevent any of them from profiting from the alleged fraud or from seeking to enforce the Judgment in the United States.

This case is extraordinary. The facts are many and sometimes complex. They include things that normally come only out of Hollywood – coded emails among Donziger and his colleagues describing their private interactions with and machinations directed at judges and a court appointed expert, their payments to a supposedly neutral expert out of a secret account, a lawyer who invited a film crew to innumerable private strategy meetings and even to ex parte meetings with judges, an Ecuadorian judge who claims to have written the multibillion dollar decision but who was so inexperienced and uncomfortable with civil cases that he had someone else (a former judge who had been removed from the bench) draft some civil decisions for him, an 18-year old typist who supposedly did Internet research in American, English, and French law for the same judge, who knew only Spanish, and much more. The evidence is voluminous.

The transnational elements of the case make it sensitive and challenging. Nevertheless, the Court has had the benefit of a lengthy trial. It has heard 31 witnesses in person and considered deposition and/or other sworn or, in one instance, stipulated testimony of 37 others. It has considered thousands of exhibits. It has made its findings, which of necessity are lengthy and detailed.

Upon consideration of all of the evidence, including the credibility of the witnesses– though several of the most important declined to testify – the Court finds that Donziger began his involvement in this controversy with a desire to improve conditions in the area in which his Ecuadorian clients live. To be sure, he sought also to do well for himself while doing good for others, but there was nothing wrong with that. In the end, however, he and the Ecuadorian lawyers he led corrupted the Lago Agrio case.

They submitted fraudulent evidence. They coerced one judge, first to use a court-appointed, supposedly impartial, “global expert” to make an overall damages assessment and, then, to appoint to that important role a man whom Donziger hand-picked and paid to “totally play ball” with the LAPs.

They then paid a Colorado consulting firm secretly to write all or most of the global expert’s report, falsely presented the report as the work of the court-appointed and supposedly impartial expert, and told half-truths or worse to U.S. courts in attempts to prevent exposure of that and other wrongdoing. Ultimately, the LAP team wrote the Lago Agrio court’s Judgment themselves and promised $500,000 to the Ecuadorian judge to rule in their favor and sign their judgment. If ever there were a case warranting equitable relief with respect to a judgment procured by fraud, this is it.

The defendants seek to avoid responsibility for their actions by emphasizing that the Lago Agrio case took place in Ecuador and by invoking the principle of comity. But that warrants no different conclusion.

Comity and respect for other nations are important. But comity does not command blind acquiescence in injustice, least of all acquiescence within the bounds of our own nation.

Courts of equity long have granted relief against fraudulent judgments entered in other states and, though less frequently, other countries. Moreover, the United States has important interests here. The misconduct at issue was planned, supervised, financed and executed in important (but not all) respects by Americans in the United States in order to extract money from a U.S. victim.

That said, considerations of comity and the avoidance of any misunderstanding have shaped the relief sought here. Chevron no longer seeks, and this Court does not grant, an injunction barring enforcement of the Lago Agrio Judgment anywhere in the world.

What this Court does do is to prevent Donziger and the two LAP Representatives, who are subject to this Court’s personal jurisdiction, from profiting in any way from the egregious fraud that occurred here. That is quite a different matter. Indeed, the LAP Representatives’ lawyer recently conceded before the Second Circuit that the defendants “would not have a problem” with “the alternative relief that [Chevron] would be seeking, such as enjoining the person who paid the bribe from benefitting from it,” assuming that the judge was bribed.

Defendants thus have acknowledged the propriety of equitable relief to prevent individuals subject to the Court’s jurisdiction from benefitting from misdeeds for which they are responsible. And while the Court does enjoin enforcement of the Judgment by these defendants in the United States, that limited injunction raises no issues of comity or international relations. It is the prerogative of American courts to determine whether foreign judgments may be no different conclusion.

Comity and respect for other nations are important. But comity does not command blind acquiescence in injustice, least of all acquiescence within the bounds of our own nation.

Courts of equity long have granted relief against fraudulent judgments entered in other states and, though less frequently, other countries. Moreover, the United States has important interests here.  The misconduct at issue was planned, supervised, financed and executed in important (but not all) respects by Americans in the United States in order to extract money from a U.S. victim.

That said, considerations of comity and the avoidance of any misunderstanding have shaped the relief sought here. Chevron no longer seeks, and this Court does not grant, an injunction barring enforcement of the Lago Agrio Judgment anywhere in the world.

What this Court does do is to prevent Donziger and the two LAP Representatives, who are subject to this Court’s personal jurisdiction, from profiting in any way from the egregious fraud that occurred here. That is quite a different matter. Indeed, the LAP Representatives’ lawyer recently conceded before the Second Circuit that the defendants “would not have a problem” with “the alternative relief that [Chevron] would be seeking, such as enjoining the person who paid the bribe from benefitting from it,” assuming that the judge was bribed.1

Defendants thus have acknowledged the propriety of equitable relief to prevent individuals subject to the Court’s jurisdiction from benefitting from misdeeds for which they are responsible. And while the Court does enjoin enforcement of the Judgment by these defendants in the United States, that limited injunction raises no issues of comity or international relations. It is the prerogative of American courts to determine whether foreign judgments may be laws of any nation that aspires to the rule of law, including Ecuador – and they knew it. Indeed, one Ecuadorian legal team member, in a moment of panicky candor, admitted that if documents exposing just part of what they had done were to come to light, “apart from destroying the proceeding, all of us, your attorneys, might go to jail.”2

It is time to face the facts.”

Link to the judgement: http://tinyurl.com/o8p6gve

 

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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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Canvasback Missions Takes a Major Step in the Fight Against Diabetes in the Marshall Islands

By Alexander Hirata

Canvasback Missions has spent years working to reverse the diabetes epidemic in the Marshall Islands. They’ve brought specialty medical care to the islands for over 30 years, and have run the Diabetes Wellness Center on Majuro since 2006. Now, Canvasback is working to reverse the epidemic of diabetes in the Marshall Islands by preventing the onset of the disease before it begins.

 

Made possible by a generous grant from the World Diabetes Foundation, Canvasback is working with Antonia Demas, Ph.D., and Marshall Islands health officials to bring health education into the classroom. Dr. Demas has visited the Marshall Islands twice so far, traveling last with Canvasback co-founder Jacque Spence and employee Jaylene Chung to implement trials of the new food education curriculum in the public schools on Majuro and Ebeye in October. The team trained instructors how to teach from the curriculum, which involves special hands-on activities to engage children and make food education fun.

 

Dr. Antonia Demas studied education, nutrition, and anthropology at Cornell University. She has developed food-based curricula for schools for over 40 years, successfully implementing her “Food is Elementary” program in over 3,000 schools. Demas is also the founder and president of the New York-based Food Studies Institute, a not-for-profit created to improve children’s health through food education.

 

One of Demas’ key beliefs is that the food we eat directly affects our health. Processed foods have replaced natural ones, and chemical preservatives are now a regular part of our diets. Demas believes that children are the ideal group to teach food literacy to: they don’t have established diets that are difficult to change; they are open to new ideas, especially if taught using sensory (taste, touch, and visual) methods; and healthy habits now would prevent illnesses later.

 

Canvasback is proud to work with Demas, because both know that food education is essential to reverse diabetes in the Marshall Islands. It is cost-efficient, slipping into the existing educational system, yet its effects will last for a lifetime. And once established, local schools and teachers will be in full control of the program. The most difficult part of the program won’t be getting kids interested in healthy eating–it will be waiting years to see how well it pays off.

 

To learn more about the work of Canvasback Missions, contact them at: 940 Adams St., Suite R, Benicia, Calif. 94510. Phone: 800-793-7245 or email them at info@canvasback.org

 

 

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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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Airline Apologizes for Antigay Message on Passenger’s Luggage

Jetstar has issued an apology after a passenger’s luggage was lettered with the words
‘I Am Gay’ after a flight last weekend.

An Australian airline is apologizing for the defacement of a passenger’s luggage, which was branded with an antigay message last weekend.

Jetstar officials said they were investigating the matter involving the words “I Am Gay” stamped upon a suitcase with airport barcode stickers. The passenger Tweeted an image of the luggage Satruday after his flight from Perth to Brisbane in Australia.

“Utterly disgusted to find my luggage front and center on the @JetstarAirways luggage carousel looking like this,” Twitter user @aaronpp wrote.

“I know nobody there. It was after midnight and the flight delayed over an hour … idle hands, perhaps,” he later posted, clarifying that he did not know any of the Jetstar staff who may have been playing a practical joke.

As of this article’s posting, the image of the lettered luggage had been retweeted 247 times. Many major outlets had also published the photo, including The Huffington PostThe Sydney Morning Herald, and International Business Times.

“We are taking this matter very seriously and we have contacted the passenger to apologise for any distress caused,” a Jetstar spokeswoman said in response to the media uproar.

The passenger, who identifies as straight and is a married father of two, followed up his tweet with ablog post detailing his reaction to the incident.

“For me, this was only a few minutes of one day of my life,” he wrote. “If what I felt for those few minutes is extrapolated out every day over a lifetime, then I can fully understand why our gay friends feel persecuted and why they have such high rates of suicide. It is unacceptable.”

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This Is Why People Who Live In San Francisco Are So Happy And Healthy

The Huffington Post  

san francisco
Rudyard Kipling once said that the only drawback to San Francisco is how hard it is to leave.

Many San Franciscans would agree with Kipling: Bay Area natives and transplants alike tend to be fiercely loyal to their city, and most SFers would tell you that they could never imagine living anywhere else. With sweeping vistas on every hill, beautiful beaches, year-round free concerts and cultural activities — not to mention some of the best food, music and art in the country — it’s easy to see why so many have been lured by the siren song of the San Francisco Bay.

Besides being one of the most visually stunning seven-by-seven square miles on earth, San Francisco has also topped rankings of the happiesthealthiest and fittest cities in America, and Bloomberg Businessweek called San Francisco the best city in America in 2012.

Here are 12 reasons that San Francisco is one of the happiest and healthiest places in the U.S. — and lessons that it can teach the rest of America about living well.

It’s veggie-friendly.

vegan stew recipes

Considered one of the most “veg-friendly” cities in the US by PETA, San Francisco is not only an oasis of vegetarian and vegan restaurants, according to VegSF, but also has myriad vegetarian and vegan-friendly menus, even at restaurants with meat dishes. You can even eat the fruit that grows on the trees in certain public parks in San Francisco. And with the vegan paradise that is Berkeley right across the bay, herbivores will never run out of dining options.

It has a vibrant spiritual life.

buddha lessons

Meditation, yoga and Eastern philosophy are a part of the city’s DNA, thanks to a long history of Eastern religious studies at its cultural centers. The Buddhist philosopher and writer Alan Watts, a transplant to San Francisco from England, introduced thousands to Eastern philosophy in the late 1950s and early 1960s (his TV series “Eastern Wisdom and Modern Life” aired in San Francisco and helped spread Zen ideology in the U.S.). But no matter your faith, an emphasis on spiritual belief systems has been found to reduce stress levels and increase well-being, making it a likely contributor to its San Franciscans’ good health.

San Francisco is also home to the oldest Buddhist temple in the U.S., and it’s the birthplace of Burning Man, an event that attracts many seeking spiritual release. Centers like Mount Madonna, Green Gulch Zen Center, Spirit Rock and the Esalen Institute also offer workshops and retreats within a short drive of the city.

It’s organic.

farmers market berries

The city by the bay was voted the number-one best city to live the organic foodie lifestyle by the online magazine Organic Authority. Farmer’s markets, community farms, organic restaurants and food co-ops (Rainbow Grocery in the Mission has been sharing organic food with the community since 1975) are easy to find.

An organic diet can help to reduce the synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, antibiotics and hormones that we consume from conventional food sources. And while the link between these compounds and human health isn’t definitive, most researchers agree that we don’t know what the long-term health consequences of eating these could be.

It’s home to some of the country’s best public parks.

golden gate park

San Francisco’s parks — ranging from Golden Gate Park to the Presidio to Dolores Park — were ranked the best in the country last year by nonprofit conservation group, The Trust for Public Land. Public art is also everywhere, including the famous Heartsdotted all over the city, commissioned in 2004 by the San Francisco General Hospital. Recently, Parkets – parking space-sized mini-parks that have copped up across town, offering greenery and seating to passersby — have become the latest addition to the SF park scene.

Maybe that’s why San Franciscans can seem so zen and so fit: Walking through green spaces, even in the middle of cities, can put the brain into a state of meditation,according to a recent UK study. And research has shown that public parks contribute to physical activity rates among city residents.

And speaking of fitness, outdoor activities are everywhere.

crissy field

Outdoor recreational activities and exercise options help make the San Francisco Bay Area the seventh-fittest metropolitan area in America. Between doing tai chi in Washington Square Park, surfing at Ocean Beach and practicing yoga in Golden Gate Park, there’s an outdoor activity for every fitness personality. The city’s beautiful public trails and temperate weather make it easy to fit in daily workouts without a gym membership. (Not to mention that San Franciscans also build quads of steel from walking up the city’s many steep hills.)

It has the “culture cure.”

outside lands lineup

Live music, art, theater and literary events are all over the Bay, all year round — and attending these cultural events could have some big health benefits. Studies have found that attending cultural events could lower blood pressure and also promote mental health by warding off anxiety and depression.

“When it comes to nourishing the soul, [San Francisco's] vibrant arts, entertainment, and recreational offerings set it apart,” wrote Sarah Mahoney and Susan Coenen as part of a Prevention study of the 25 healthiest, happiest cities in America. “While it may seem obvious that those options make people happier, they also make them healthier.”

It’s close to nature.

point reyes

The stress-relieving and happiness-boosting benefits of spending time in nature are well documented. Aside from the many green spaces and beaches within San Francisco proper, SFers can easily reconnect with nature by driving only a short distance from the city. Marin Headlands, Point Reyes National Seashore, Muir Woods and Mount Tamalpais State Park offer miles of hiking and biking trails in some of the most beautiful natural landscapes on the West Coast.

Yoga is everywhere — even in the airport.

airport yoga meditation

Yoga studios are nearly as ubiquitous in San Francisco as coffee shops. The city’s New Age roots gave rise to a number of yoga and meditation centers and many of them are still popular today. And that’s great for city residents, who can enjoy the practice’sstrength and flexibility training as well as it’s calming effect on stress. Now, it’s easy to find nearly any type of yoga in the city, including naked yoga in Noe ValleyTerminal Two of the San Francisco International Airport also has a yoga room for travelers looking for a little on-the-go zen.

It’s one of the best cities for biking.

bike san francisco

As residents of the eighth-best city for bikers by Bicycling Magazine, Bay Area drivers are used to sharing the road with bikers: Since 2010, San Francisco has installed 20 new miles of bike lanes, 25 bike-parking areas, and traffic signals giving riders the right-of-way. The new Bay Bridge even included the installation of a $500 million hanging bike lane, the first of its kind.

And the research shows that biking and bike commuting can have a huge impact on health. One Danish study found that bikers had a lower risk of death from any cause than their more sedentary counterparts. And in a separate Australian study, researchers found that people who replaced their car commute with biking lowered their risk of stroke and heart attack, improved their cholesterol and their aerobic fitness within one year, NPR reported.

Locals enjoy the health benefits of moderate wine consumption.

napa wine

Thanks to world class vineyards in nearby Napa and Sonoma, wine is a part of the Northern California culture. We’ve all heard that one glass of red wine a day can improve your health, and it’s true: Numerous studies have linked moderate wine consumption with a lower risk of becoming overweight or obese. Red wine also contain heart-healthy antioxidants and Resveratrol, which may reduce bad cholesterol, according to the Mayo Clinic.

It’s a dog-friendly city.

dog san francisco

It’s commonly said that there are more dogs than children in San Francisco, andaccording to the San Francisco Chronicle, it’s actually true. As of 2007, census data showed that the city’s dog population trumped that of children.

“Nobody beats San Francisco when it comes to doting on dogs,” the Chronicle wrote. “It’s a city with luxury dog hotels, rooftop dog cocktail parties, a pet cemetery and City Hall plans to turn dog droppings into alternative energy.”

And that isn’t just good news for pooches: Pet ownership has been linked to reduced levels of stress and relief from mild depression, and improved heart health

It’s a place that celebrates community.

san francisco baker beach

As HuffPost San Francisco Editorial Fellow Lydia O’Connor points out, the “event to be at” in San Francisco is frequently free, outdoors and well-attended. Free events ranging from concerts to yoga classes are easy to come by, as are group volunteering activities and community art projects like the 16th Avenue tiled steps in the Sunset.

These community events don’t just benefit the city as a whole, they can have an effect on individual residents. Strong social ties and community bonds have been linkedwith lower stress levels and increased well-being and longevity.

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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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Centerplate and Teamsters Reach Agreement for Employees at AT&T Park, Other SF Venues: New Pressure on Local 2 UNITE HERE to Bargain in Good Faith

San Francisco—Centerplate, one of the largest hospitality and concession companies in North America, and San Francisco’s Teamsters Local 853 recently announced the ratification of a collective bargaining agreement for 200 retail and food service employees working at AT&T Park, Candlestick, and the Cow Palace. The agreement, which extends through March 31, 2016, includes an immediate wage increase, a signing bonus and excellent health and welfare benefits.

The announcement comes as Local 2 Unite Here refuses to respond to Centerplate’s proposals for a wage increase and bonus for food service workers at AT&T Park and Candlestick. Rather than negotiating a fair deal with Centerplate, Local 2′s Union boss, Mike Casey, has stated for months he will not agree to Centerplate’s economic proposal while at the same time refusing to provide a counter proposal.

“Centerplate would like to thank the Teamsters for working with us to achieve a deal for our employees and provide our team with the wages and benefits they deserve,” said Sam Singer, spokesperson for Centerplate. “It is bizarre to us that we can come to terms with the Teamsters in a matter of hours for an agreement that provides for improved wages, while Local 2 continues to focus on irrelevant issues. We invite Local 2 to return to the table with a renewed sense of urgency to accept our proposal that immediately puts money in the pockets of our employees—their members,” said Singer.

The agreement reached between Centerplate and the Teamsters took a total of 6 hours and includes the following terms:

1)      An immediate $1.50 per hour increase and a minimum of a $.40 per hour increase in years 2 and 3 of the contract for Food Service workers;

2)      A $500 signing bonus for Food Service workers who worked at least 40 events last year;

3)      An immediate $1.40 per hour increase and a $.30 per hour increase for years 2 and 3 of the contract for Merchandise workers;

4)      A $100 signing bonus for Merchandise workers who worked at least 40 events last year; and

5)      A $5,000 increase in pension contributions per year, raising Centerplate’s annual pension contribution to $20,000 per year.

Last month, Local 2 union leaders walked out on contract negotiations with Centerplate and a Federal Mediator, once again failing to make an economic counter proposal, thereby denying, for the time being, Centerplate’s employees at AT&T Park and Candlestick the economic benefits that would flow from a new contract.

“We hope this sends a clear message to Unite Here’s labor boss, Mike Casey, that it’s possible that we can reach a fair and reasonable deal, but that doing so requires both parties to focus on the best outcome for Centerplate’s employees, not on third parties,” said Singer. “These past few months, Mike Casey has spent almost as much time picketing and demonstrating as he has sitting at the negotiation table where a fair deal awaits Centerplate employees. Ultimately, it’s the employees who are paying the price. Centerplate’s deal with the Teamsters demonstrates again that we are willing to deliver bonuses, salary increases, and the health and welfare security that our employees deserve,” said Singer.

Under Union boss Casey, Local 2 continues to make non-economic demands outside of the concessionaire’s control and has threatened years of potential labor strife and demonstrations. In May, Local 2 was sued by Centerplate for 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 federal labor law, Centerplate officials said, because the foodservice employees at AT&T Park are employed by Centerplate and not the San Francisco Giants, who are being unfairly dragged into a fight that is not theirs to have.

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. Most of these workers do not work enough hours to qualify for health benefits under Obamacare, but Centerplate has provided it to them all along.

To ensure seamless exceptional service for fans, Centerplate has made an offer than includes:

  • A ratification bonus of approximately 4.5 percent—$500—for those who worked more than 40 games in 2012;
  • A 1.7 percent annual wage increase on top of what already is the best compensation package in the industry;
  • Increased contribution of 9.2 percent to the Unite Here benefit plans; and
  • Employer paid health care for employees and their families.

For months, Centerplate has been in negotiations over a new contract. Local 2 delayed requesting negotiations for nearly two years and, even after it first offered to bargain, Local 2 dragged its feet and delayed negotiations. 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 actions and demands are an attack on our guests and the community groups we partner with at AT&T Park and Candlestick. It is time for Local 2 to come back to the table and focus on a realistic agreement,” Singer said.

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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 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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Audubon Society Accused of Fraudulent Land Grab By Ranchers: How Audubon Society Used “White Out” To Change Boundries

MAYACAMAS MOUNTAINS, Calif. — A group of California families are accusing the National Audubon Society of whiting out parts of maps to swindle them out of their best land. This is property that in some cases has been in the families’ hands since the 1920s.

The Cervieres brothers, immigrants from France, came to California in 1895. By 1924 they had money to buy beautiful plots of land high up in the Mayacamas Mountains, towering over Sonoma wine country in northern California.

They wanted a place of retreat and refuge for what they hoped would someday be a large and extended family of Cervieres. Their descendants became five families who bought even more land in the Pine Flat area of these mountains.

And they did form a tradition across the decades of enjoying almost every major family occasion, summers and holidays in this mountain paradise. They built five homes they collectively dubbed “the ranch.”

“The ranch was like the lifeblood, the glue that held the family together,” said Lea Raynal, now one of the extended family’s matriarchs.

But a fire swept through in 2004 and burned down three of the houses.

“Torched this whole thing,” Lea’s son Mike Raynal said, looking up at a bare chimney that’s all that’s left of one home.  “We lost everything.”

Family members felt horrible but fanned hope by deciding to rebuild as quickly as possible.

Another Blow

Then came another devastating blow from a surprising source. A neighbor had bequeathed thousands of acres next door to the National Audubon Society, best known for its love of birds and conservation.

To rebuild, the families would need to upgrade the roads leading across Audubon land to accommodate their heavy construction equipment.

But after decades of everyone sharing these roads, Audubon said no and then hit the families with yet another bombshell: It said it had proof their very best acres, the flat ones where their houses had been, were actually Audubon land.

“It was like being hit in the stomach, the wind knocked out of you,” Lea recalled.

Audubon representatives showed the family survey maps that appeared to bolster Audubon’s claim, maps that years later family members would find had parts whited out by Audubon.

According to the family’s lawyer Peter Prows, the reps gave them an ultimatum:  “We’re not going to let you rebuild your homes unless you agree to the boundary as we’re claiming it to be on our drawings.”

Mike’s brother, Phil Raynal, said that would have pushed family members’ new houses “approximately 300 yards up the hill, way up in an upper meadow – virtually impossible to build on.”

“This is the only flat area,” he said, pointing to the area around him where their houses had been.

Prows said Audubon then informed the families, “If you don’t agree, we’re going to go out and build a fence on that line, and if you try to interfere, we’re going to call the police.”

Legal Battle Begins

In court documents later, Audubon insisted it believed its claim that it truly owned the best acres of its next-door neighbors.

And since it was legally bound to preserve the wilderness acres bequeathed it, the company said it couldn’t just hand those acres back to the families if it really owned them.

Audubon said it held meetings and bent over backwards to work out a deal with the families.

But here’s what Phil heard from an Audubon representative at one of those meetings: “This property has never, ever been yours. Get over it.”

“That haunts me. I tell you what, that haunts me every day,” he said.

Phil and his family accuse Audubon of simply coveting their land.

“It really bothers me that they’d come up here and try to take something that’s ours,” Phil’s young son Ryan said.

So the families decided to fight, with Mike and Phil Raynal leading the way. They threw themselves into a years-long effort to prove the ancient boundaries were correct and their land was indeed theirs, not Audubon’s.

A Costly Fight

Their efforts cost them and their families hundreds of thousands of dollars across several years, and much more than just money but “thousands and thousands and countless hours,” Phil said, shaking his head.

The brothers for years cut their way through rugged brush to find the original surveyors’ landmarks, facing rattlesnakes, ticks, poison ivy, and exhaustion.

They both already had full-time jobs. This fight became another one. Mike’s daughter Danielle feels it cost her her father.

“I’ve lost a father pretty much,” she said. “Me and my dad were very close, and it’s been hard. We’ve all drifted apart.”

Some family members were not only spending every spare hour fighting to prove Audubon wrong. But while all this was working its way through the legal system, the families couldn’t rebuild and were cut off from their piece of paradise and all those family gatherings like they’d had for decades.

“You have family reunions. You’re always having holidays,” Danielle remembered as she recalled how the five families would spend months of each year together on the ranch.

“And then it’s just an abrupt stop,” she said.

“Everybody getting together. It was just absolutely amazing,” Danielle’s mother Carin Raynal recalled. “And this whole debacle has just torn all of it apart.”

Another family member, Bruce Young, testified in a sworn declaration.

“There’s no doubt in my mind whatsoever that the emotional stress and aggravation to which Audubon subjected me is the cause and underlying reason for the three strokes I have suffered and survived,” he said.

‘White Out’ Gate

Then another stunning surprise in 2010 after years of legal wrangling: Audubon caved and said it would accept the original property lines and let the families use the roads unimpeded.

“They completely capitulated,” Prows stated.

No one outside of Audubon knows why this capitulation, but one more shock was ahead. In 2012, the families’ lawyers discovered with a subpoena that at the start of all this, Audubon had held back from family members some of the surveying maps it had commissioned.

They had also altered the maps they presented to prove Audubon’s claim.

“Audubon had actually doctored the drawings that it showed to our clients,” Prows said. “It took white out, and we have emails from Audubon’s very top people talking about putting white-out on the maps – removing the lines that its surveyors had put on the maps that Audubon didn’t like, showing that the boundary really was in the right place all along.”

This screamed lies and coverup to the families.

“We actually call it ‘White Out Gate’ now,” Phil said.

He still gets mad thinking of those thousands of hours he and Mike spent researching, gathering documents, combing through the thick brush on their land.

“Really what sunk in was all those years – seven, eight years of hard work when they knew from day one this was never their property. Ever! They knew it,” Phil fumed.

“I couldn’t believe anybody would do that,” Mike Raynal said. “I wouldn’t do that to another human being, period.”

A Bid for Restitution

Now the families are suing for fraud. Audubon admitted in court documents it didn’t give them all the surveyor’s maps but said that was because not all were relevant. It said it did white out lines on the maps but only lines it said were extraneous.

Audubon calls this lawsuit frivolous, demanding the families pay its legal bills.

Family members refuse to give an inch because all these years of legal war have certainly cost them.

“It’s affected everybody mentally, physically, emotionally,” Carin Raynal said.

When CBN News asked repeatedly for an interview or written comments, Audubon suggested researching the court documents and would only give the following mission statement:

“Audubon is fully committed to its mission as a non-profit organization dedicated to faithful care of the earth. We believe that every person on earth is a steward of land, air, water and wildlife. We believe that safeguarding America’s great natural heritage builds a better world for future generations, preserves our shared quality of life, and fosters a healthier environment for all of us.”

Lea Raynal summed up her family’s feelings about Audubon: “They came in and stirred up all this mess, and we’re left with nothing.”

From a CBN News Report

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BART Strike Update: Former BART Director Michael Bernick Calls for Parties to Continue Negotiations, Not Strike

Oakland–Former BART Director Michael Bernick today called for BART management and unions to continue negotiations, if no agreement is reached by 12:00 a.m. July 1, according to a news release just issued by the transit district and its communications agency Singer Associates Public Relations and Public Affairs.

 “In 1991, 1994 and 2009 the parties continued negotiating past the strike deadline, and a settlement was reached without a strike. The same process at least should be tried this time,” said Bernick, who formerly served as  a director of the BART transit system.

The former director noted that the collective bargaining process by which the parties negotiate with the threat of a Bay Area transit strike needs to be changed by the state legislature. The same dynamics of negotiations to the end and threat of a transit strike have occurred in each of the negotiations over the past three decades. The current process is a disservice to Bay Area residents, and over the past negotiations has not resulted in better settlements for the BART workers.

Regarding the structure of a settlement,  Bernick noted that Governor Brown has set a structure for pension contributions that should guide BART negotiations.

Bernick also urged other politicians to stay out of the process. “The BART Board is a responsible body and should be given the authority to handle the negotiations.”

Bernick was elected to the board of directors of the Bay Area Rapid Transit rail system in 1988 and soon began to note the lack of land development linked to rail. With UC Berkeley Professor Robert Cervero, he established a research center at UC-Berkeley focused on the link of land use and transit, and together they published a series of articles leading to their 1996 book, Transit Villages in the 21st Century.  The book helped to develop and popularize the transit village concept.

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California Center for Sustainable Energy Rolls Out Plug in Vehicle Presentation in San Francisco

San Francisco residents learned about recent advancements in the electric vehicle revolution sweeping across California this week at a presentation by California Center for Sustainable Energy.  The event featured presentations and an owner panel discussion on plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) as well as test-drives of some of the newest models for 2013.

“The Future is Electric: Plug In and Get There” was sponsored by the California Center for Sustainable Energy, SF Environment and San Francisco Clean Cities Coalition.

California is the nation’s largest PEV market with roughly 35 percent of the U.S. total. During the fourth quarter 2012, sales of PEVs in California reached a record-setting 2.5 percent of all new cars purchased or leased in the state.

During the workshop, Colin Santulli a CCSE transportation program manager outlined the financial and environmental benefits of PEV ownership and the currently available incentives. CCSE administers the statewide Clean Vehicle Rebate Project, a program of the California Air Resources Board. Since 2010, CCSE has issued more than $42 million in vehicle incentives and helped to educate Californians on the availability and benefits of zero-emission vehicles.

“By making the switch to cleaner, more efficient plug-in electric vehicles, individuals can reduce their use of petroleum and help create cleaner air for all of us,” Santulli said. “This workshop was a great opportunity for people to learn about the first-hand experiences of their neighbors who already own PEVs.”

Representatives from Pacific Gas & Electric and ICF International gave presentations aimed at consumers considering making the switch to a PEV. After the presentations, a PEV fair on Fulton Street included vehicle displays and test-drives and exhibit booths featuring PEV technologies, car-sharing and alternative transportation. Cars available included the Chevy Volt, Nissan Leaf, BMW ActiveE and Ford Focus.

The California Center for Sustainable Energy (CCSE) is an independent, nonprofit organization that accelerates the adoption of clean and efficient energy solutions including administration of the statewide Clean Vehicle Rebate Project for the California Air Resources Board. For more information and workshop listings, visit www.energycenter.org or call 858-244-1177.

 

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On Scene with Bill Wilson

Ignazio Marino campaigning for Mayor of Rome.

Sometimes opportunity knocks so hard you have to respond. When presented with the second chance to meet one of the two candidates in the run-off for Mayor of Rome, Fernando and I took the opportunity to give Ignazio Marino encouragement for proposing legal recognition of same sex couples.

We were walking in the neighborhood where Fernando’s mother lives when I convinced Fernando to walk on the side of the street where the political campaign had set up their booths for distributing campaign literature. As a collector of campaign ephemera (buttons, posters, banners, and leaflets etc.) I wanted Fernando to ask if we could have one of the “Marino Sindaco” (Marino Mayor) flags flying from their booth. When Fernando asked the lady in the booth if that was possible her reply was, “Oh, no. Marino is going to be here at 5 and we need them until then for sure. Come back later.”   So that is how we found out the candidate was actually going to be in the neighborhood and since it was 4:35 pm I had time to go get my camera and come back.

 

The stage near the entrance to the Tiburtina Shopping Center

 

When I came back there was a small stage set up near the entrance to Tiburtina Shopping Center, a small mall several blocks from Fernando’s mother’s apartment. I decided that was the best place to be to get some photos. It was closer to 6 by the time things actually got started. There were several hundred people present.

The rally began with the introduction of  Nicola Zingaretti, the President of the Lazio Region, who gave the main political speech. The disadvantage of not speaking Italian is that I can’t give you a word by word account of his speech, only that it was enthusiastically received.  The next person to be introduced was the person running for the local council (similar to our Board of Supervisors). Then Ignazio Marino spoke to the crowd.

 

Nicola Zingaretti, President of the Lazio Region  speaking at a rally for Ignazio Marino (left) and Emiliano Sciascia (on right)who is running for President of  Municipio IV

 

I had mentioned to Fernando that when he finished speaking I hoped to be able to get a photo of him with Marino. When he finished he turned to the side where his aide was and we thought we had missed our chance. However for some reason he came back on stage to say something he had forgotten. So when he finished he was looking directly at me and I asked if it would be possible to get a photo with Fernando and him.  He agreed and Fernando actually stepped onto the stage with him. Fernando explained hat we were a couple and told him that when he was elected Mayor he hoped that he would work to get civil unions. Marino replied, “It’s in the program.”

 

Fernando speaking with Ignazio Marino.

The program being a booklet, “Roma È Vita, Il Programma Elettorale di Ignazio Marino per Roma Capitale” (Rome is Life: The Electoral Program of Ignazio Marino for the Rome Capital). The relevant sections being under “Pari Opportunità: Certificato di unione per riconoscere amministrativamente le coppie di fatto.” (Equal Opporuntiy- Marriage certificate to administratively recognize unmarried couples)  and “I Diritti delle Persone LGBT: Riconoscimento admministrativo delle coppie di fatto” (The Rights of LGBT People: Admministrative recognition of unmarried couples). I don’t mean to imply that those are the only things under those categories because they are not. I think it is a positive step forward and a good place to start. I will be happy if Marino wins the second round of voting and becomes the Mayor of Roma!

Ignazio Marino interacting with people in the crowd as he leaves Tiburtina Shopping Center on Tuesday June 4, 2013

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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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PG&E: San Bruno Mayor Says “We Won’t Let Pacific Gas & Electric Off the Hook” for San Bruno Explosion and Fire, Deaths and Destruction

San Bruno–Mayor Jim Ruane reacted strongly this evening to a PG&E filing with the California Public Utilities Commission, in which the utility company rejected the a call for major fines and penalties for its explosion and fire of Sept. 9, 2010, in San Bruno that killed eight, harmed dozens of residents and destroyed a community neighborhood.  This is the official statement issued by the City of San Bruno:

“The City of San Bruno finds the PG&E filing with the California Public Utility Commission today deeply disappointing and of great concern.  PG&E continues to downplay its systematic failures and its personal and corporate responsibility for the Sept. 9, 2010 San Bruno explosion and fire.

“Eight people died in our community, scores more were injured and a giant hole was created by PG&E in the heart of our community.  Yet, as we near the third anniversary of this great tragedy, PG&E continues to fail to acknowledge its responsibly for this catastrophe.  The explosion and fire would have never occurred if the company hadn’t diverted monies meant for pipeline safety and had performed safety work that was legally, scientifically, contractually and morally required of them by the California Public Utility Commission, which also bears responsibility for this tragedy for its failure to regulate the utility company.

“We have only made a quick review of the voluminous PG&E filing today and expect to make further comments and filings of our own as part of the penalty phase by the CPUC against PG&E.  We will not let PG&E off the hook for the damage they have done to our community, to their reputation and the deep concern they have created throughout California about pipeline safety,” said Mayor Jim Ruane, City of San Bruno.

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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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Patton Boggs Law Firm Sued by Chevron for Fraud and Deceit in Ecuador Lawsuit: Did Patton Boggs Know of ‘Ghostwriting’ of Fraudulent Ecuador Judgement?

Since late 2010, Washington, D.C. law firm Patton Boggs has been poking a sleeping tiger. It has filed three peculiar federal lawsuits — in its own name, not on behalf of any client — against Chevron, the third-largest corporation in the United States. These cases have fared poorly; two were quickly dismissed, and a federal magistrate judge recommended tossing the third in March.

 

On Friday, the tiger awoke. Chevron (CVX) sought a federal judge’s permission to bring counterclaims against the 455-lawyer firm for alleged fraud and deceit for its conduct in representing the Amazon Defense Front, which obtained a $19 billion environmental judgment against the oil giant in Lago Agrio, Ecuador, in February 2011. Chevron also seeks to charge the firm with “malicious prosecution” for having pursued its three lawsuits in bad faith. Chevron seeks to hold the law firm liable for any damages Chevron suffers from the Front’s allegedly fraud-infested litigation, plus punitive and treble damages.

 

In a statement, Patton Boggs wrote: “Chevron’s proposed complaint against Patton Boggs is perhaps the starkest example yet of how Chevron will use its limitless resources to intimidate and harass anyone that dares to help the Ecuadorian Plaintiffs in their 20-year battle for justice … Patton Boggs has acted conscientiously, ethically and in good faith at all times since becoming involved in this case in 2010, and will not be intimidated by Chevron’s scare tactics.” (See the full document here.)

 

Patton Boggs began representing the Front in February 2010. The firm is being paid on a partial contingency fee basis, under an agreement that gives it a 2.4% stake in the Ecuadorian judgment, according to earlier filings by Chevron. Thus, the law firm theoretically stands to make about $450 million if the Ecuadorian judgment can ever be collected. (Chevron has virtually no assets in Ecuador.)

 

Patton Boggs’s team working on the Lago Agrio case has been led by James Tyrrell, Jr., a regional managing partner of the firm’s New York and New Jersey offices and a member of its executive committee.

 

At the time Patton Boggs got involved in the matter, Chevron’s lawyers had just begun filing a series of U.S. court proceedings, known as Section 1782 actions, to attempt to expose fraud, fabrication of evidence, and other chicanery that Chevron claims the Front engaged in to obtain the Ecuadorian judgment. Patton Boggs’s task was, among other things, to assist the Front in resisting Chevron’s efforts to unearth such evidence.

 

Notwithstanding the Front’s and Patton Boggs’s efforts, Chevron eventually did obtain much of the evidence it sought, and in February 2011 it filed a civil Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) case in Manhattan against the Front’s leaders, including its top U.S. lawyer and strategist, Steve Donziger. Last July, in a ruling on a partial summary judgment motion in that case, U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan found that the March 2011 Ecuadorian judgment was, in fact, “unquestionably … tainted” by fraud. More recently, in a discovery order in March 2013, he also found that there was “probable cause” to believe that Front representatives “bribed the Ecuadorian judge to obtain the result they wanted and, as part of the deal, wrote the judgment to which the judge put his name.”

 

(The Front has repeatedly and unsuccessfully sought to remove Judge Kaplan from the case, accusing him of bias in strident and borderline contemptuous terms.)

 

One of the reasons Judge Kaplan found it likely that the Ecuadorian judgment was ghostwritten by the Front’s lawyers is that it incorporates large passages that appear to have been lifted verbatim from internal Front legal memoranda that were never introduced into the Ecuadorian court record. In the proposed complaint, Chevron alleges that at least one of the lifted passages incorporates Patton Boggs’s own work product.

 

Thus, it alleges, “Patton Boggs either knew in advance of the ghostwriting of the judgment against Chevron or must have become quickly aware of it once Chevron began to make the evidence known, and yet Patton Boggs continued to further the fraudulent scheme … Despite the uncontradicted evidence to the contrary, Patton Boggs has falsely asserted in the U.S. that this judgment is legitimate and not the product of a corrupt process in which Patton Boggs and/or its co-counsel colluded with the Ecuadorian court or court experts.”

 

Another focus of Chevron’s proposed complaint is Patton Boggs’s alleged role in “direct[ing] the creation of a declaration” signed by Front lawyer Pablo Fajardo that was filed in a Section 1782 action in Denver federal court in May 2010.

 

In his March 2013 ruling, Judge Kaplan called the Fajardo declaration “a seriously misleading account of what had happened” and, again, found “probable cause” to believe that “at least some” of the Front’s representatives “had committed mail and/or wire fraud and obstructed justice … by formulating and filing” it. The Front later filed the Fajardo declaration in at least eight other U.S. courts around the nation, including Kaplan’s.

 

Also in dispute is a strategy Patton Boggs allegedly “orchestrated” of hastily seeking testimony from seven newly hired experts — known internally at Patton Boggs as the “cleansing” experts — and introducing their written testimony into the Ecuadorian court record in late 2010 in an effort to give the Ecuadorian court something to base its opinion upon other than a court-appointed expert’s report that Chevron alleges (and appears to have proven) was secretly ghostwritten by the plaintiffs lawyers.

 

Chevron alleges that the cleansing experts in fact simply relied on the fraud-tainted report and that Patton Boggs’s lawyers tried to conceal that fact.

 

Chevron also takes issue with Patton Boggs’s continuing attempts to enforce the Ecuadorian judgment in foreign courts, including, so far, those of Canada, Argentina, and Brazil, “despite overwhelming and un-rebutted evidence that the Ecuadorian judgment itself, and the [court-appointed expert's report] upon which it is based, were fraudulently ghostwritten by the LAPs’ own team.”

 

Finally, Chevron faults Patton Boggs for having helped the Front secure funding for its allegedly fraud-tainted litigation by allegedly misleading the investment fund Burford Capital, which specializes in litigation finance. Burford has since renounced its interest in the case and has accused both the Front’s leaders and Patton Boggs’s Tyrrell of having made false representations to lure it into the case. (Patton Boggs has responded in the past that it is “fully confident that it has acted appropriately and ethically.”)

 

Chevron’s proposed complaint is based on documents already in its possession that relate to Patton Boggs’s role in the case, but it is already in the process of trying to obtain many more documents from the firm. In March Judge Kaplan ordered Patton Boggs to begin turning over millions of pages of files in the case, finding that any attorney-client privilege was pierced by the so-called crime-fraud exception. He wrote: “PB participated heavily in certain critical activities that make it likely that it is an important and, in many respects, unique source of evidence of the alleged fraud that is available nowhere else and that at least some of the materials in its possession or control were in furtherance of crimes or frauds regardless of whether PB was aware of them.”

 

Chevron’s new proposed claims against Patton Boggs are not being leveled in the RICO case itself, which is scheduled to go to trial in October, but rather as a counterclaim in a case Patton Boggs itself brought against Chevron in Newark last year, which was transferred to Manhattan earlier this year.

 

That case is the third of Patton Boggs’s suits against Chevron, which are the subject of Chevron’s “malicious prosecution” allegation against the firm. The string of Patton Boggs suits began in November 2010, when it sued Chevron seeking a preemptive declaration that Patton Boggs had no conflict of interest in representing the Front — though Chevron had not moved to disqualify it. (The potential conflict related to Patton Boggs’s July 2010 acquisition of the Breaux Lott Leadership Group, a lobbying firm that Chevron says was representing it with respect to its Ecuador litigation between 2008 and 2010.)

 

Patton Boggs later added Chevron’s main outside counsel, Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, as a defendant, and also accused Chevron of “tortious interference with contract” for having allegedly interfered with the Front’s ability to find financing with which to pay Patton Boggs. U.S. District Judge Henry Kennedy, Jr., dismissed this and a second, nearly identical Patton Boggs suit against Chevron in April, July, and August of 2011, and an appeals court unanimously affirmed both dismissals in June 2012.

 

By then, Patton Boggs had filed the third suit against Chevron in Newark. This one had to do with a $21.8 million appeal bond that Judge Kaplan had required Chevron to post when, in March 2011, he granted a preliminary injunction barring the Front from trying to enforce the Ecuadorian judgment outside Ecuador. After the injunction was vacated by an appeals court in January 2012, Chevron asked Judge Kaplan to release the bond — i.e., give Chevron back the money it had posted.

 

Patton Boggs opposed Chevron’s motion, but instead of simply doing so in a motion before Judge Kaplan on the Front’s behalf, it filed an entirely new lawsuit in Newark on Patton Boggs’s own behalf. Later Patton Boggs added a “malicious prosecution” claim against Chevron for its having identified Patton Boggs as a “co-conspirator” (though not a defendant) in its RICO suit. In December 2012, Newark federal judge Esther Salas transferred the case to Judge Kaplan in Manhattan, criticizing Patton Boggs’s “jurisdictional maneuvering.” (Judge Kaplan released the bond in April 2012, and Patton Boggs has appealed that order.)

 

In March 2013, Magistrate Judge James C. Francis IV in Manhattan recommended dismissal of Patton Boggs’s third suit, and Patton Boggs has appealed to Judge Kaplan. Chevron’s new claims against Patton Boggs for fraud and deceit, filed today, come as counterclaims in that case.

 

It seems likely that Patton Boggs was already losing money from its representation of the Front — that was an underlying premise for all three of its lawsuits against Chevron — and the counterclaim against it by Chevron cannot help its situation. Patton Boggs did not respond to a request for comment on whether the Front was in arrears on payments owed to it.

 

Last week another of the Front’s U.S. law firms, Houston’s, Smyser Veselka & Kaplan, asked to withdraw from the RICO case, saying it was owed almost $1.8 million in fees. At the same time, Donziger’s law firm in that case, Keker & Van Nest — which the Front had also been paying, under the terms of its retainer agreement with Donziger — also asked to withdraw, saying it was owed more than $1.4 million in fees.

 

According to the Wall Street Journal, Patton Boggs laid off 65 lawyers and staff in late February, after a decline in profits. Its annual revenues were down 6.5% in 2012, the article said, while its profits fell 14%.

 

By Roger Parloff-Fortune, May 13, 2013

 

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Chevron Wins Another Round in Ecuador Fraud Case: Case Against Oil Company in $19B Pollution Case Collapsing

Chevron continues to battle charges against the oil company in Ecuador and win victory after courtroom victory against Steven Donziger and the plaintiffs in the fraudulent case of pollution in the Amazon region of Ecuador.

Just yesterday, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice stayed an action initiated by the Ecuadorian plaintiffs seeking to have a judgment of an Ecuadorian court against Chevron Corp. [NYSE: CVX] recognized and enforced in Ontario.

This latest success for Chevron comes right after a series of blockbuster announcements by former members of Donziger’s plaintiffs’ team who have now switched sides and joined Chevron, announcing the work they did for Donziger and the Ecuadorian was fabricated or faulty because they, too, were misled by Donziger.

Add to these recent announcements that a former Ecuadorian judge revealed that he accepted bribes from the plaintiffs’ team along with another Ecuadorian judge to draft rulings in favor of the plaintiffs and you have a lawsuit that is a better read than anything John Grisham has ever written.

The Canadian court ruled yesterday in the case and wrote:

“The plaintiffs (Steven Donziger, Ecuadorians) have no hope of success in their assertion that the corporate veil of Chevron Canada should be pierced and ignored so that its assets become exigible to satisfy a judgment against its ultimate parent.  There is no basis in law or fact for such a claim.… Ontario courts should be reluctant to dedicate their resources to disputes where, in dollar and cents terms, there is nothing to fight over.  In my view, the parties should take their fight elsewhere to some jurisdiction where any ultimate recognition of the Ecuadorean judgment will have a practical effect.”

In response, Chevron Corporation issued the following statement:

“We are pleased with today’s decision from Justice Brown. The Ontario Superior Court ruled that it ought not to entertain the plaintiffs’ claims on the evidence before the court. This is a significant setback to the Ecuadorian plaintiffs’ worldwide enforcement strategy given that it is premised on seeking to enforce the judgment against assets of Chevron Corporation subsidiaries that were not even parties to the Ecuadorian litigation.”

“The plaintiffs should be seeking enforcement in the United States – where Chevron Corporation resides.  In the U.S., however, they would be confronted by the fact that eight federal courts have already found the Ecuador trial tainted by fraud.”

Meanwhile, Chevron Corp. has made additional notable progress in the legal proceedings in the United States exposing the fraudulent nature of the plaintiffs’ judgment.  This evidence further demonstrates that the judgment is illegitimate and should be unenforceable in any court that respects the rule of law.  Evidence of the plaintiffs’ fraud includes:

  • A former Ecuadorian judge has admitted his role in orchestrating the fraudulent judgment against Chevron and a half-million-dollar bribery scheme.
  • Stratus Consulting, the lead environmental consultants to the Ecuadorian plaintiffs’ lawyers, provided sworn declarations (here and here), highlighting the lack of scientific merit to the plaintiffs’ damage claims.
  • Another of the plaintiffs’ lawyers’ environmental consultants, Dr. Charles Calmbacher, has testified that plaintiffs’ evidence was being falsified from the very outset of the trial.
  • Litigation hedge fund Burford Capital has provided a sworn declaration outlining the firm’s knowledge of the plaintiffs’ lawyers’ misconduct, testifying that the proceeding is irredeemably tainted by fraud.

Chevron Corp. remains committed to holding the plaintiffs’ lawyers accountable for their misconduct and demonstrating the judgment is the product of a corrupted judiciary.

Chevron Corp. is defending itself against false allegations that it is responsible for alleged environmental and social harms in the Oriente region of Ecuador.  Chevron never conducted oil production operations in Ecuador, and its subsidiary Texaco Petroleum Co. (“TexPet”) fully remediated its share of environmental impacts arising from oil production operations, before leaving Ecuador in 1992.  After the remediation was certified by all agencies of the Ecuadorian government responsible for oversight, TexPet received a complete release from Ecuador’s national, provincial, and municipal governments that extinguished all claims before Chevron acquired TexPet in 2001.  All legitimate scientific evidence exonerates Chevron and proves that the remediated sites pose no significant risks to human health or the environment.

More information on the plaintiffs’ lawyers’ fraud can be found here.  Additional background on the Ecuador litigation can be accessed here and here.

 

Chevron is one of the world’s leading integrated energy companies, with subsidiaries that conduct business worldwide. The company is involved in virtually every facet of the energy industry.  Chevron explores for, produces and transports crude oil and natural gas; refines, markets and distributes transportation fuels and lubricants; manufactures and sells petrochemical products; generates power and produces geothermal energy; provides energy efficiency solutions; and develops the energy resources of the future, including biofuels.  Chevron is based in San Ramon, Calif.  More information about Chevron is available at www.chevron.com.

 

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