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Republic Urban Development Moves Full Speed Ahead on Millbrae BART Station Transit-Oriented Development

Immediately after being selected by the BART Board of Directors as the exclusive negotiating partner for the Millbrae BART Station development by a 5-2 vote, Republic Urban has committed its team and attention to establish a process with BART and the City of Millbrae that will result in the entitlement of a Transit Oriented Development at the BART station here. The station currently serves Caltrain and BART and will eventually host California High Speed Rail.

“Republic is honored to have the opportunity to develop a project that everyone will be proud of.” said Michael VanEvery, President of Republic’s West Coast Division. “We have the experience, resources and talent to make this project a national model and a great asset to the City of Millbrae and its citizens.”

Republic has already begun its planning process that will include an extensive community engagement program to ensure that the development satisfies the goals of both BART and the Millbrae community. This process will begin with scoping sessions for public input to be incorporated into planning and environmental review.

Republic’s vision for the site is a transit-oriented project that weaves into the city fabric, complements the city’s downtown and creates an attractive gateway. Republic proposes transforming the Millbrae BART station’s surrounding property into a dynamic mix of housing, retail, office and solar energy generation. This mixed-use concept will leverage the local and regional transit connections provide by SamTrans, CalTrain and BART to become an important symbol of 21st Century, regionally focused urban development.

Republic’s master plan takes advantage of the strong existing components of the Millbrae BART station and provides the best use for BART delivering a TOD that will bring riders to the system.  It adds needed housing to the City of Millbrae to assist the City in its struggle to meet ABAG housing requirements.

About Republic

Republic is a privately owned, full-service real estate investment, management and development enterprise with more than 25 years’ experience delivering quality results throughout the United States. Republic has developed award-winning real estate projects ranging from land development to historic adaptive reuse to shopping malls. The company has developed and invested in real property transactions totaling over 17 million square feet with a value in excess of $4 billion.

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U.S. bolsters missile defenses to counter North Korea threat: Hagel

U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel speaks at his news conference at the Pentagon in Washington March 15, 2013. REUTERS-Yuri Gripas

U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel speaks at his news conference at the Pentagon in Washington March 15, 2013.


By Phil Stewart and David Alexander

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced plans on Friday to bolster missile defenses in response to “irresponsible and reckless provocations” by North Korea, which threatened a preventative nuclear strike against the United States last week.

Hagel said the Pentagon would add 14 new anti-missile interceptors at Fort Greely in Alaska – an effective reversal of an early Obama administration decision – and move ahead with the deployment of a second missile-defense radar in Japan.

The Pentagon also left open the possibility of creating a site on the East Coast where the Pentagon could field more interceptors capable of striking down an incoming missile. The 14 additional interceptor deployments would cost nearly $1 billion and must be approved by Congress.

“By taking the steps I outlined today we will strengthen our homeland defense, maintain our commitments to our allies and partners, and make clear to the world that the United States stands firm against aggression,” Hagel told a news conference.

North Korea issued its threat last week to stage a preemptive nuclear attack against the United States as the United Nations readied new sanctions against Pyongyang in response to its February 12 nuclear test.

Experts say North Korea is years away from being able to hit the continental United States with a nuclear weapon, despite having worked for decades to achieve a nuclear capability.

But Hagel said the moves announced by the Pentagon were justified to stay ahead of the threat, underscored by the nuclear test and a December rocket launch that analysts believe was aimed at developing technology for an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).

Hagel also cited North Korea’s display last April of what appeared to be a road-mobile ICBM.

The Pentagon said the United States had informed China, North Korea’s neighbor and closest ally, of its decision to add more interceptors but declined to characterize Beijing’s reaction.


Officials say its missile defense systems are not designed to counter the large number of ICBMs in arsenals in China or Russia and are focused instead on the threat from North Korea or, potentially, Iran.

Friday’s announcement came with a key caveat – the Pentagon said it would only purchase the extra interceptors if they perform appropriately in tests. The interceptors in question have not hit a target since 2008, a defense official said.

Boeing Co. is the prime contractor of the system. Key Boeing subcontractors include Raytheon Co., which makes the kill vehicle, and Orbital Sciences Corp, which makes the rocket booster.

Admiral James Winnefeld, vice chairman of the U.S. military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, expressed confidence in the missiles and said he believed the steps taken by the United States would make North Korea’s young leader, Kim Jung-un, think twice before acting on bellicose rhetoric.

“We not only intend to put the mechanics in place to deny any potential North Korean objective to launch a missile to the United States, but also to impose costs on them if they do,” he told reporters.

“And we believe that this young lad ought to be deterred by that. And if he’s not, we’ll be ready.”

The addition of another 14 interceptors amounts to a reversal of an Obama administration decision in 2010 to stop expansion of the missile interceptor system at 30 interceptors. The Bush administration had planned to deploy a total of 44.

The United States currently has 26 interceptors deployed at Fort Greely and four at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

Congressman Mike Turner, chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces, said the Obama administration had began “to realize the shortcomings of its missile defense strategy.”

“Now that the administration has decided to see clearly, America can get back on the right course,” Howard McKeon, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said in a statement, lamenting lost time and resources.

In a sign of fiscal pressures facing the Pentagon, U.S. officials acknowledged they were also forgoing development of a new anti-missile interceptor that would have been deployed in Europe. They said European defense would be unaffected.

Officials said the United States would move forward with congressionally mandated environmental impact studies for alternative sites in the United States for deploying additional ground-based interceptors, if needed.

Winnefeld said locations on the East Coast were being considered but declined to offer details.

“We’re still looking at sites,” he said.

(Reporting by Phil Stewart; Editing by Mohammad Zargham and David Brunnstrom)

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

Sam Singer of Singer Associates Public Relations San Francisco

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

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

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

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

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

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Pistorius Rebutes Murder Charge in Court

By LYDIA POLGREEN and ALAN COWELL From the New York Times

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Closing in on Truth and Justice in the Chevron Ecuador Case: Overwhelming Evidence of Fraud by Plaintiffs Against Chevron: The Global Lawyer

On Jan. 28 Chevron Corporation filed overwhelming new testimonial and documentary evidence of fraud by the Ecuadorian plaintiffs who hold a $19 billion judgment against it–including a declaration by a former judge that the judgment itself was procured through bribery. “Truth and justice are elusive,” ran the headline by Thomson Reuters. With all due respect to my former colleague Alison Frankel, who sets the standard for litigation journalism, this reaction is deeply wrong.

The first time I met the plaintiffs’ lead lawyer, Steven Donziger, I asked him if he was prepared to denounce the lawyers who rigged their cases against Dole Food Company in Nicaragua. Ironically, he answered yes. In refusing to condemn Donziger, many of us are now failing the same test.

Commentators continue to find balance where there is none, with the honorable exception of Roger Parloff. Human rights advocates, excepting Douglas Cassel, have rallied behind the allegations that Chevron is responsible for an environmental calamity in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Distinguished counsel in the U.S., Canada, Brazil, and Argentina are avidly seeking to enforce the Ecuadorian judgment. And most disturbingly, the enforcing courts are listening, with an Argentine court ruling on Jan. 30 that 40 percent of Chevron’s local affiliates’ revenues should be frozen pending enforcement.

Plaintiffs spokesperson Karen Hinton fairly notes: “We have not put forth every argument that we will make in briefs and arguments to jury if there ever is a jury trial.” And indeed, for a journalist to weigh evidence that will be considered by a jury is often inappropriate. But in this case it’s imperative. I aim to show here that the documentary evidence of fraud (nevermind the testimony) is now virtually unanswerable. To pretend otherwise is to encourage irresponsible courts to reward the alleged fraud.

Even before last week’s evidentiary bombshells, adjudicators outside Ecuador who have weighed the evidence have consistently condemned the plaintiffs. Eight U.S. courts have now found a prima facie showing of fraud under the crime fraud exception to privilege. In allowing Donziger to be deposed in November 2010, U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan in New York found “substantial evidence” of misbehavior. The verdict against Chevron came on Valentine’s Day 2011, and three weeks later Kaplan enjoined worldwide enforcement based on “abundant evidence” that due process had been violated. It is vital to note that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in no way questioned this factual finding when it reversed Kaplan in January 2012 after examining New York’s law on recognizing foreign judgments. (Seehere and here.) Finally, a panel of international arbitrators found the fraud allegations persuasive enough to order the Republic of Ecuador, also in January 2012, to take all measures to suspend enforcement.

In 2010 I disagreed with Roger Parloff that the plaintiffs’ suit was crippled, and I queried whether Chevron’s lawyers at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher had “botched the kill step.” The central fraud allegation at the time was that the plaintiffs had ghostwritten the damages recommendation of the main court-appointed expert, which they had for years passed off as independent. Chevron’s evidence on the “Cabrera report” was so strong–the expert was essentially caught on film taking orders–that the plaintiffs eventually admitted this ghostwriting (without admitting to fraud). I was among the first to decry this scandal, and to take seriously the companion allegations of judicial intimidation. But the plaintiffs found new experts, and, when the verdict later came down, they could say it was untainted by Cabrera. I reasoned that Chevron had delivered its knockout punch too soon, and had made a potentially fatal mistake by giving the plaintiffs time to try curing the taint before a final judgment.

My logic was sound. But it seems that I was too kind in assuming that these plaintiffs were capable of taint-free litigation.

After a long windup, the real knockout punch landed last week. Although few noticed except Parloff, Chevron has over the past year amassed serious evidence of ghostwriting in the Ecuadorian judgment itself. Last week Chevron added to that evidence, and a former judge in the case, Alberto Guerra, stepped onto center stage with a firsthand account of the alleged judicial ghostwriting arrangement. Guerra swears that parties routinely paid him (after his own removal from the bench) to ghostwrite orders in their favor for Judge Nicolas Zambrano, and that (after Chevron declined his services) the Ecuadorian plaintiffs paid Guerra to play that role in the Chevron case. Finally, Guerra says that the plaintiffs promised Zambrano a half million dollar bribe to let them ghostwrite the judgment themselves, with a few tweaks by Guerra. At least no one can say that these allegations are curable.

The plaintiffs’ initial response was to deny all, while noting–correctly–that Guerra has been disgraced on multiple counts, and that Chevron is paying him a king’s ransom. Hinton also finds it implausible that Chevron, in all its desperate efforts to discredit the case, never previously disclosed Guerra’s overtures to Chevron.

Personally, I would not expect the bag man to be a boy scout and a philanthropist. But let’s concede for the sake of argument that Guerra’s testimony will be completely discredited by the New York jury that is set to hear Chevron’s claims of fraud and racketeering at a trial before Judge Kaplan starting Oct. 15. And let’s suppose that the jury discounts the egregious Cabrera affair and all the other multifarious allegations that appalled Judge Kaplan and the arbitrators. What is the new documentary evidence of incurable fraud?

Most importantly, Chevron has forensically traced passages on 60 pages of the 188-page final judgment to seven files from Donziger’s hard drive, and one from his associate’s. According to Chevron, these files were not in the court record. This is confirmed by two Chevron experts–one who reviewed the 200,000-page record electronically, and one who reviewed it by hand.

After reviewing most of this evidence in a discovery action, a Maryland federal court concluded on Jan. 25: “Chevron has shown to anyone with common sense that this is a blatant cut and paste exercise.”

The plaintiffs have not shown any pages to the contrary, and they have not produced court-stamped copies of their supposed filings. Plaintiffs’ spokesperson Hinton says, “We believe that those documents were entered into the court record.” However, Chevron says that that plaintiffs have taken no such position in U.S. court, and Hinton was unable to show me otherwise. Instead, she directed me to a July 2011 filing by plaintiffs lawyer Pablo Fajardo in Lago Agrio, where he argued that Chevron must be behind the mysterious alien passages in the judgment. Fajardo reasoned that Chevron knew from my “Botched the Kill Step” column that it needed to discredit the final ruling, and suspiciously began to claim that Zambrano received “secret assistance” on the day after the verdict, before the record could be reviewed. I am flattered that the plaintiffs lawyers are aficionados of my work, and not just overplotted spy fiction.

It seems that the only response plaintiffs can make in court is to grasp at a speculative theory. At a discovery hearing on Dec. 21, a lawyer representing the Ecuadorian parties in New York, Larry Veselka of Smyser Kaplan & Veselka, floated the idea that Chevron itself might have secretly “slipped” Donziger’s files to the judge who handed down the $19 billion verdict. Judge Kaplan was bemused: “So they wrote parts of this decision hammering them as bad as anybody in world history has ever been hammered so that they could then attack it because the judge copied the bad stuff from them. Oh, please, Mr. Veselka. No. If I misunderstood you, please tell me….I have to give you credit for imagination on that, Mr. Veselka. I mean, really.”

Besides adding to its unanswered evidence showing plaintiffs’ fingerprints on the final judgment, Chevron last week produced files from Guerra’s hard drive showing that he ghostwrote for Zambrano nine preliminary judicial orders against Chevron, amounting to about 300 pages, and two non-Chevron judgments, including one shortly before the $19 billion verdict.

In response to the evidence from Guerra’s hard drive, Hinton offers a speculative theory similar to the one mocked by Judge Kaplan. “Is Chevron capable of intentionally placing information on Guerra’s computer?” she asks. “Yes. Do we know that? No. Other unethical and illegal conduct by Chevron during and after the trial would lead me to believe it’s possible.” The plaintiffs’ accusations against Chevron are reviewed in recent press releases (here and here), with links to court filings that discuss them more systematically. To date, none of the plaintiffs’ allegations of illegality by Chevron has been accepted by a U.S. court.

To top it all off, Chevron has produced two deposit slips showing $1000 deposits to Guerra’s bank account, with a signature and national identity number that Chevron attributes to an administrative assistant for the plaintiffs. On Oct. 27, 2009, two days before the first deposit, plaintiffs lawyer Fajardo emailed Donziger: “The puppeteer won’t move his puppet until the audience doesn’t pay him something.” Exactly a month later–on the same day as the second deposit–another plaintiffs’ advocate, Luis Yanza, emailed Donziger: “[T]he budget is higher in relation to the previous months, since we are paying the puppeteer.” Chevron interprets other emails to show that “puppet” and “puppeteer” were code for Zambrano and Guerra.

Hinton denies this, and says “puppeteer” may simply have been a bantering reference to one of the plaintiffs’ consultants. She says that no one “representing the Ecuadorians” made a deposit to Guerra, and that both the signature and ID number on the bank deposit slips are too visually obscure to prove the depositor’s identity. (I find the ID number on one slip quite easy to read. Readers can judge for themselves at the bottom of this image.)

So the documentary evidence seems to show that Guerra received two payments from the plaintiffs at roughly the same time that the plaintiffs chatted about paying a puppeteer; that Guerra ghostwrote nine preliminary orders for Zambrano in the Chevron case; that Guerra had a continuing ghostwriting relationship with Zambrano during the relevant period; and that the plaintiffs’ electronic fingerprints are on nearly a third of Zambrano’s final judgment against Chevron. The only significant point in Guerra’s testimony that’s not directly corroborated is Zambrano’s bribe.

Nor is Chevron done. It is seeking further bank records through its discovery action in Miami. Presumably, it will depose Donziger again before the close of New York discovery on May 31. And if Guerra’s arrangement with Zambrano was as extensive as his testimony suggests, then I suspect that Chevron will put into evidence a very large number of other ghostwritten judgments.

If proven, the relationship between Guerra and Zambrano would not be unique. In its 2010 report on Ecuador, the U.S. State Department stated that judges there are sometimes corrupt, and referred to media accounts on “the susceptibility of the judiciary to bribes for favorable decisions and resolution of legal cases and on judges parceling out cases to outside lawyers, who wrote the judicial sentences and sent them back to the presiding judge for signature.” Back in the day, experts for the plaintiffs presciently warned U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff in Manhattan that he should not ship the case back to Ecuador because of pervasive judicial corruption.

All this might incline a jury to credit ex-judge Guerra’s account of bribery. My point is that the existing documentary evidence, on its own, leads inescapably to the conclusion that the judgment is unenforceable as a result of corruption. Of course each party is entitled to a full legal defense on each legal theory in the New York civil trial (and any possible future criminal proceedings). I am not trying to hang the plaintiffs in advance. I am trying to expose the worthlessness of the judgment that, even now, they are racing to enforce.

The “truth” here is not elusive. On the contrary, we will rarely find a case where the truth may be established more fully. It took the discovery of documentary film outtakes due to an on-camera slip by the plaintiffs; the green light given to Section 1782 discovery as a result (see here and here); the near-complete piercing of Donziger’s privilege; and the extraordinarily high stakes that have justified Chevron’s unprecedented commitment of resources and unwillingness to settle.

In calling “justice” elusive, Alison Frankel is on firmer ground. But even there, I do not fully agree.

Some may resist Chevron’s protestations of victimhood because they believe that corporations are evil. It should be self-evident that seeking corporate accountability from this perspective is little better than racist prosecution. Others inexcusably assume that even if the plaintiffs were overzealous, Chevron must be guilty of the underlying charges, because it seems plausible and because the plaintiffs exaggerate so loudly and often. Frankel makes the more respectable argument that we will simply never know.

Actually, we have a large body of scientific evidence. I condemn Texaco (Chevron’s predecessor) for using the long-disfavored industry practices of dumping toxic sludge into unlined pits and pouring the water used in oil production back into the environment. But it cannot simply be presumed that massive contamination spread and led to massive health consequences. I believe that litigation is a horrendous context for scientific sampling, and I hope that the U.N. Environmental Programme’s alternative factfinding model in Nigeria is emulated. But the fact is that even the plaintiffs’ samples show no significant groundwater contamination except below the pits.

After wading into the scientific evidence on both sides–see here and here–I previously concluded that, setting aside the legal defenses, a factfinder in a trial conducted under the rule of law might find Chevron liable for a soil cleanup with a maximum plausible price tag of $1 billion. Douglas Cassel later reached a similar conclusion.

So, no, we will never know the outcome of a just trial on the billion-dollar claim of environmental devastation that passes the straight-face test. I agree with Frankel that this is a great shame. But we do know that the next $18 billion of the judgment is unjust to Chevron–and that wrong can be righted.

By far the greatest injustice is that the indigenous residents of the Ecuadorian Amazon suffer serious health and social problems. But we do not have the evidence to pin much blame for this on Chevron. And we should not forget the responsibility of Ecuador, which has operated the oil project at issue since 1990 and was the majority owner for most of the period when Texaco was the operator. What’s more, Ecuador collected so much in taxes that, when Chevron won an arbitration for diverted oil revenues, the award needed to be reduced from about $700 million to $100 million. Ecuador chose to spend precious little of its oil windfall on social services in the Amazon region. Sadly, this injustice is not amenable to litigation, except at the far frontiers of economic and social rights.

The likely truth of Chevron’s core allegations should now be evident to anyone who studies the evidence without ideological blinders–including the attorneys and judges. If the enforcing lawyers no longer believe in good faith that the judgment is pure, then they should withdraw from the case. That includes Patton Boggs, which is not implicated in any fraud (discounting Chevron’s most aggressive theories), but certainly finds itself in an awkward position. The litigation funder that brought Patton Boggs into the case, Burford Capital, has not only sold its interest, but accused the plaintiffs of defrauding them. Patton Boggs might wish to ponder what its lead lawyer on the case, James Tyrrell Jr., told me in December 2010: “I’m certainly not here to join in any fraudulent effort….My mission is to see that a judgment on the merits, warranting international respect, is entered in Ecuador, and, if we win, to enforce it.”

My most fervent hope is that Ecuador’s National Court of Justice reclaims its nation’s dignity by overturning this disgraceful and doomed judgment in the pending appeal. If it does, the enforcement actions will go away. If it does not, I optimistically believe that the enforcement actions will be dismissed, because they are now too shameful for even the most renegade court to approve.

Come what may, I expect Chevron to seek revenge on the plaintiffs’ team in the New York fraud trial, and to demand in arbitration that Ecuador cover its record legal bills. It would be fitting if Chevron donated such a recovery to environmental and health projects in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Chevron is closing in on truth and, in a very partial way, closing in on justice.

Clarification: With regard to bank slips that Chevron contends support its accusations of bribery, plaintiffs spokesperson Karen Hinton clarifies that she doesn’t contest that a national ID number is distinctly visible on the documents. Rather, Hinton told us she was referring to an account number that is partly redacted.

By Michael D. Goldhaber

The Litigation Daily


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Chevron Ecuador Lawsuit: International Tribunal Cites Ecuador and President Rafael Correa in Breach of its Obligations Under International Law

An international arbitration tribunal issued an award yesterday finding that the Republic of Ecuador and the administration of President Rafael Correa has violated the Tribunal’s prior Interim Awards authorized under international law and a treaty between the United States and Ecuador by not preventing the attempted enforcement of a $19 billion judgment against Chevron Corp. (NYSE: CVX)  In prior rulings, the Tribunal put the Republic on notice that if Chevron’s arbitration ultimately prevails, “any loss arising from the enforcement of (the judgment) may be losses for which the (Republic) would be responsible to (Chevron) under international law.”

This decision is a stunning rebuke to President Correa and his re-election campaign in Ecuador and casts a pall on all efforts by the plaintiffs in the case  because of the illegal behavior of Ecuador and the plaintiffs.

Convened under the authority of the U.S.-Ecuador Bilateral Investment Treaty (the BIT) and administered by the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague, the Tribunal found Ecuador in breach of the Tribunal’s prior rulings and ordered the Republic to explain why it should not be ordered to compensate Chevron for all harm resulting from the plaintiffs’ attempts to enforce a judgment resulting from an environmental trial against the company in Lago Agrio, Ecuador.

Almost one year ago, the Tribunal issued a Second Interim Award ordering the Republic of Ecuador—and all of its branches, including the judiciary—to take all necessary actions to prevent enforcement and recognition of the Lago Agrio judgment, both inside and outside of Ecuador.  That award expanded upon a prior award requiring Ecuador to “take all measures at its disposal to suspend or cause to be suspended the enforcement or recognition within and without Ecuador of any judgment.”

“The Tribunal’s decision confirms that the enforcement actions being pursued against Chevron in Argentina, Brazil, and Canada fly in the face of international law,” said Hewitt Pate, Chevron vice president and general counsel.  “Yet Ecuador has consistently aligned itself with American trial lawyers who have used corrupt courts to advance an unprecedented fraud.  It is not too late for the Republic to reverse course, declare the Lago Agrio judgment illegitimate, and address the real challenges facing its citizens.”

Despite the Tribunal’s Awards, the Republic of Ecuador has facilitated the plaintiffs’ pursuit of enforcement in Argentina, Brazil, and Canada.  These actions are the result of Ecuador’s failure to meet its international law and treaty obligations.

Chevron’s arbitration claim stems from the government of Ecuador’s interference in the ongoing environmental lawsuit against the company in Ecuador and its courts’ failure to administer justice in a trial that has been marred by fraud.  Additionally, Chevron maintains that the government of Ecuador has failed to uphold prior settlement and release agreements that the government of Ecuador entered into with Texaco Petroleum Company (now a Chevron subsidiary) when the consortium between Texaco Petroleum and Petroecuador was terminated.

In its ruling, the Tribunal found that “Neither disagreement with the Tribunal’s orders and awards on interim measures nor constraints under Ecuadorian law can excuse the failure of the (Republic), through any of its branches or organs, to fulfil its obligations under international law imposed by the Treaty, the UNCITRAL Rules and the Tribunal’s orders and awards thereunder, particularly the First and Second Interim Awards on Interim Measures.”

In August 2011, a different international arbitration tribunal convened under the BIT awarded Chevron and Texaco Petroleum $96 million, plus interest, in a claim against the Republic of Ecuador related to past oil operations.  The Tribunal found that Ecuador’s courts violated the BIT and international law through their decade-long delays in ruling on certain commercial disputes between Texaco Petroleum and the Ecuadorian government.  A court in the Netherlands has upheld the award and Ecuador has filed a second appeal.


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APEX Art Show in San Francisco Featuring Dynamic Artworks from Renowned Street Artist Ends Jan. 12 at 941 Geary Gallery

APEX at 941 Geary Gallery San Francisco


941 Geary gallery’s show that features renowned street artist Apex will come to an end Jan. 12. Don’t miss this show which presents some vital and compelling works by the young artist in a show entitled Reflected, a collection of his new works. It opened in Novmeber and its scheduled completion is next week.

Consisting of two 10×6’ and ten 6×6’ latex and spray paint on canvas paintings, 12 framed sketches on transparencies and a large-scale wall mural, Reflected is the next step in the artist’s evolving look into abstraction.

With a focus on mirrored images, the exhibition explores the beauty of symmetry in nature and in design.

The artist’s sharp-edged compositions contain a visual interplay of organic and structural form, Influenced by architecture, graphic design and the Fibonacci sequence.

The multilayered, intricately stylized letterforms appear in Rorschach-like arrangements, characterized by a flurry of self-contained energy. In two paintings, layers of color build upon each other in bright bursts, but for the majority of the work the artist will employ a monochromatic palette, incorporating earth tones into a body of work for the first time.

San Francisco-based artist Apex has quickly made a name for himself in the world of street art, in both the Bay Area and abroad.

Having coined the term “Super Burner,” his pieces are most commonly huge, multi-layered productions, packed with patterns and a vivid array of colors. The relationship his pieces have to the built environment creates moments of intersection, and opens up complex fields of color, as if they have somehow transcended into their own form of architecture. The work is most certainly its own form of typography – his pieces are careful explorations of abstract letterforms.

White Walls Gallery has worked for nearly a decade to exist as the premiere destination for urban art in the Bay Area. Combined with the Shooting Gallery just next door, this 4,000 sq ft space is one of the largest galleries on the west coast. Justin Giarla founded the gallery in 2005 with a commitment to furthering the urban art movement, drawing directly from street art and graffiti culture. Named for its plain white walls, the gallery takes a backseat to the real focus: the work of our artists.


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AutoReturn of San Francisco Wins New Contract with Kansas City to Start Municipal Towing Program

Kansas City, MO.– After a nationwide procurement search and selection process, Kansas City selected AutoReturn, the nation’s leading municipal towing management and logistics company, to oversee the city’s towing operations and handle, track, and report on towed vehicles.  Kansas City selected AutoReturn for its unique municipal towing management and logistics program.

Kansas City’s choice of AutoReturn highlights the city’s dedication to transforming its municipal towing services and streamlining city operations. The contract represents a prime example of public and private entities coming together to share best practices to simplify government services.

“We believe our solution fundamentally transforms the way cities and residents think about municipal services,” said AutoReturn CEO John Wicker. “We have been working closely with city officials and the police department in Kansas City to provide superior service and make the sometimes unfortunate experience of towing a lot easier for everyone.”

AutoReturn’s Municipal Towing Management Addresses Safety Logistics Issues

“AutoReturn’s software, people and processes have already addressed some of Kansas City’s most difficult public issues related to towing,” said Gary Majors, manager of Kansas City’s regulated industries division.  “By shortening the time it takes for equipment to reach a tow scene, the city reduces officer wait times, decreases traffic congestion, and limits the chance of secondary accidents, saving money and increasing safety.”  The average response time from dispatch to arrival since going live in October, 2012 has been reduced measurably to approximately 11 minutes.

Additionally, said Lesly Forsberg, Manager of Kansas City’s Tow Services Division, “AutoReturn’s model has relieved Kansas City of the day-to-day management of towing operators and tow requests from the Police Department, allowing city staff and police to focus their time on different important public safety issues.”

AutoReturn Technology Benefits Small, Local, Women and Minority-owned Tow Companies

By leveraging Android applications, AutoReturn is able to electronically dispatch tow trucks closest to the call, helping reduce costs incurred by the small, local, women and minority-owned tow companies.  Timothy Marshall, owner of Recovery Tow Service, Inc., said, “AutoReturn technology runs on our existing smart phones, streamlining our business.  Their fair and transparent process provides me the tools to exceed service level expectations.”

AutoReturn currently manages municipal towing and logistics operations in Baltimore County, Maryland, San Francisco, San Diego and, now, Kansas City, Missouri.

The company was founded a decade ago in San Francisco and continues to grow its business nationally. AutoReturn has been praised by cities and municipalities for bringing transparency and efficiency to what the notoriously disorganized business of municipal towing.  AutoReturn uses a proprietary computerized system and software that allows the company to efficiently tow vehicles, reducing time and manpower of police departments and municipal staff while at the same time creating fast and efficient service in returning cars to owners. AutoReturn is expected to continue to grow as other municipalities, police departments, city and regional government review the advances that AutoReturn has made to the industry.

About AutoReturn

AutoReturn is the leader in municipal towing management and logistics solutions, partnering with municipalities and existing local tow operators to help achieve efficiency, superior service, and increased cost recovery. Founded in 2002 as a technology-enabled towing management and logistics company, AutoReturn has revolutionized municipal towing, making sizable investments in technology, repeatable processes, training programs and other infrastructure. Learn more at


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California Center for Sustainable Energy Roadshow Guides Californians to Home Energy Savings

Center for Sustainable Energy’s mobile Energy Center travels around California.


The California Center for Sustainable Energy (CCSE) wrapped up the Energy Upgrade California Roadshow on Sunday, Nov. 18 in Cupertino, California, the eleventh stop on the energy education tour. The program, Energy Upgrade California, took energy education for homeowners on the road with the Energy Upgrade California Roadshow, a statewide mobile exhibit on energy efficiency. The roadshow started in San Diego on Nov. 1 and ended in Cupertino last Sunday reaching hundreds of homeowners throughout the state.

The Roadshow spent the last two weeks of November traveling the state to educate homeowners on the Energy Upgrade California program, how to increase home efficiency, provide energy cost savings and improve home comfort.

The roadshow made eleven stops in nine cities including Woodland Hills, Pacific Palisades, Lompoc, Santa Barbara, Sacramento, San Francisco, Antioch, Oakland and Cupertino. The stops included local farmers markets, community workshops and UC Santa Barbara. In the Bay Area, the Roadshow stopped at the Greenbuild Global Conference in San Francisco, a Contra Costa Homeowner Workshop at the Antioch Community Center, Oakland Tech High School and Sears at the Vallco Shopping Center in Cupertino.

Energy Upgrade California provides a “whole house” approach that focuses on a house as a system and looks at how various elements affect energy use. The program presents residents with an array of improvements to increase home health, comfort and safety while saving money on their utility bills.

The program educates homeowners on basic improvements to increase home efficiency and provides eligible homeowners a chance to sign up for an assessment, the first step towards improving their home and receiving rebates. Rebates range from $1,000 to $4,000 depending on the energy savings achieved.

Eligible California homeowners can sign up for a home assessment by visiting the Energy Upgrade California website at and typing in their county name or zip code.

About Energy Upgrade California

Energy Upgrade California™ is a program of the California Public Utilities Commission and California Energy Commission to reduce residential energy use, curb greenhouse gas emissions and create more comfortable and healthy homes. For more information on Energy Upgrade California, visit

About Energy Upgrade California Roadshow

The Energy Upgrade California Roadshow is a mobile exhibit in a trailer designed to inform and inspire Californians to learn about and install energy-saving improvements in their homes. The Energy Upgrade California Roadshow is funded in part by the Department of Energy in support of the goals of its Better Buildings Neighborhood Program. It was built by CCSE, an independent nonprofit organization that accelerates the adoption of clean and efficient energy solutions, based in San Diego.

About the California Center for Sustainable Energy

The California Center for Sustainable Energy (CCSE) is an independent, nonprofit organization that accelerates the adoption of clean and efficient energy solutions via consumer education, market facilitation and policy innovation. For more information and workshop listings, visit or call (866) 733-6374.



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MadMaps Introduces The Definitive Scenic Map Of The West Coast

Third in the RIDES OF A LIFETIME SERIES is  complete with over

3,000 miles of scenic roads from San Diego to Seattle

MadMaps — the San Francisco-based producer of back roads maps for bikers, RV owners, weekenders and out-of-towners – just introduced the definitive map of the 3,000 mile Pacific Coast.  The newest map is the 3rd in their RIDES OF A LIFETIME series.   The Pacific Coast map includes off-the-beaten-track attractions, scenic rides, and turn-by-turn directions from San Diego to Seattle

“We spend years compiling information from our customers, and are constantly adding great rides and attractions that are unknown to most travelers,” according to Jenny Lefferts, Founder of MadMaps.  “The Pacific Coast map is the culmination of three years of research and a great addition to the Route 66and Southwest maps in our RIDES OF A LIFETIME SERIES.”

With a portfolio of over 1000 US routes, MadMaps relies on scouts from coast to coast to find the most interesting and fun experiences for travelers.    Each map has turn-by-turn directions and mileage calculations, along with suggested roadside attractions; inter-connectable routes and roadhouses that make each road experience a unique ride tailored to the curious off roader in every corner of the country.

The map retails for $16.95 and is printed on heavy-duty, water-resistant stock.  All three maps in the RIDES OF LIFETIME series are available in a tri-fold nylon case that perfectly fits into a glove compartment or backpack.

To purchase, or for additional information, contact



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Airbnb Study Finds Online Travel Service Has Positive Effects on San Francisco Economy, Neighborhoods

Airbnb, the world’s leading marketplace for booking, discovering, and listing unique spaces around the world, today released a study that highlights Airbnb’s impact on local economies.

The study was conducted by HR&A Advisors, an industry-leading real estate and economic development consulting firm, and demonstrates that Airbnb provides a major economic boost both to its users and the neighborhoods and cities where they visit and live.  HR&A conducts sophisticated economic impact analyses for a wide variety of industries and clients, and cities around the United States come to HR&A for guidance on fostering strong and sustainable local economies and attracting new sources of economic activity.  Drawing on this expertise, HR&A developed a customized approach to quantify the unique impacts of the new kinds of tourism that Airbnb brings to San Francisco.

The study found that people who rent their homes on Airbnb use the income they earn to stay afloat in difficult economic times. Additionally, the study determined that travelers who use Airbnb enjoy longer stays, spend more money in the cities they visit, and bring income to less-touristed neighborhoods.

“Airbnb represents a new form of travel,” says Airbnb CEO and co-founder Brian Chesky. “This study shows that Airbnb is having a huge positive impact – not just on the lives of our guests and hosts, but also on the local neighborhoods they visit and live in.”

The economic impact study underscores the significant benefits that Airbnb, a pioneer of the new sharing economy, has on cities and their residents. Some highlights from the study’s findings:

- From April 2011 to May 2012, guests and hosts utilizing Airbnb have contributed $56 million in total spending to San Francisco’s economy, $43.1 million of which supported local businesses throughout the city’s diverse neighborhoods.

- 90% of Airbnb hosts rent the homes they live in to visitors on an occasional basis, and nearly half the income they make is spent on living expenses (rent/mortgage, utilities, and other bills).

- Airbnb guests stay an average of 5.5 days and spend $1,045 during their stay on food, shopping and transportation, compared to hotel guests who stay an average of 3.5 days and spend $840.

- 72% of Airbnb properties in San Francisco are located outside the central hotel corridor. More than 90% of Airbnb guests visiting San Francisco prefer to stay in neighborhoods that are “off the beaten track.” Over 60% of Airbnb guest-spending occurs in the neighborhoods in which the guests stay.

Founded in August of 2008 and based in San Francisco, Calif., Airbnb is a trusted community marketplace for people to list, discover, and book unique accommodations around the world – online or from a mobile phone.  Whether an apartment for a night, a castle for a week, or a villa for a month, Airbnb connects people to unique travel experiences at any price point, in more than 30,000 cities and 192 countries.  And with world-class customer service and a growing community of users, Airbnb is the easiest way for people to monetize their extra space and showcase it to an audience of millions.

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Blu Homes Protest Greets 30,000 at Pacific Coast Builders Conference Opening Day in San Francisco

The 30,000 attendees today at the annual Pacific Coast Builders Conference (PCBC) were greeted by a major protest from the employees of a green home building company seeking unionization of its northern California production facility.

More than 100 Blu Homes employees and members of the Carpenters Union Local 180 armed with giant 30-foot tall inflatable effigies of The Grim Reaper and a pig leafleted outside the largest gathering of the home building industry in the western United States today, the opening day of PCBC.

Blu Homes’ production workers are in a labor dispute with Blu Homes after company management has refused to recognize the union even after 38 of 45 workers at the company’s Vallejo signed a petition this year demanding representation by the Carpenters Union. More than 17 unfair Labor Charges have been filed with the National Labor Relations Board against Blu Homes.

The Carpenters Union charges that Blu Homes’ President Bill Haney and his behavior toward its workers and environmental practices do not match the pro-environment and pro-worker projects that have marked Mr. Haney’s career or the efforts of people on the company’s Board of Advisers, including Robert Kennedy, Jr., whose father played a pivotal role in the unionization of California farm workers.

Blu Homes Inc., a Massachusetts-based company that designs and builds pre-fabricated single family green homes, opened a new facility inside Vallejo’s historic Factory Building 680 on Lennar Mare Island in December 2011.

Shortly thereafter, workers approached Carpenters Local 180, asking for help in resolving issues of poor bathroom facilities, lack of gender specific bathrooms, job safety and the lack of a retirement plan.  The overriding factor was a lack of respect for the workers from management, according to Carpenters representatives.

Haney has been described in the NY Times as one of America’s leading environmental entrepreneurs.  In addition to his business and investment successes that made him a multi-millionaire, he is also a documentary filmmaker, taking his camera to places where social injustice was met with resistance by those on the ground.

From the Dominican Republic, where he focused on the struggle of Haitian sugar workers in “The Price of Sugar,” to the mountains of West Virginia, where he chronicled a community’s fight against mountain top removal mining, Haney’s films emphasize the power of ordinary people. Along the way, he has spoken forcefully against the evils of corporate greed, against environmental degradation and union busting, and for the powers of workers organizing into a union.

Haney, being interviewed about his documentary, “The Price of Sugar” and the struggle of Haitian sugar workers in the Dominican Republic said: “…one of the most interesting things that took place for me was to be present at the birth of a union. It was extraordinary to see the power and vitality of a union and how desperate these workers were without it and what improvements could be ripped from the plantations owner’s hands if there was one…”

Haney, commenting on Massey Energy and the fight against mountaintop removal mining: “…you know, there are miners working there who are getting a pathetic fraction of what they would have gotten even 10 years ago when they had protection with the unions. So, they’ve destroyed the unions, they’ve beaten up on the environment, they’ve violated federal health and safety standards, to what appears to be really the enrichment of a very small number of people, primarily the executives of the company.”

The Carpenters’ union thinks Haney is a hypocrite. Haney has positioned himself as a champion of the environment, an ally of the poor, and a defender of unions. So one must ask: why can’t he live up to his own words at his own company?

The Blu Home workers in Vallejo have overwhelmingly petitioned for union representation and they are being denied this right by the very same man that encouraged unionization in the Dominican Republic and in the hills of West Virginia. That’s not irony–that’s hypocrisy, some on the picket line said today.

In March 2012, Blu Homes raised $25 Million in Capital from new investors Brightpath Capital Partners and The Skagen Group in the Netherlands. According to the company, this brings total investment in Blu Homes to $50 million since 2007.

One can only hope that Mr. Haney and Robert F. Kenney Jr. and the other board members will recognize the right of workers to organize and have decent and safe working conditions and benefit from the growth of Blu Homes.

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On the Scene with Bill Wilson at the Church of Sant’Ancieto

Text and photo by Bill Wilson

Church of Sant’Ancieto is on the second level of the Palazzo Altemps

Church of Sant’Ancieto is on the second level of the Palazzo Altemps

If one has the wealth and clout to have a church, not the usual chapel, but a full church with relics of a saint and everything, installed in your own palace then I guess a chance to spin a little history doesn’t much matter.

General view of the Church of Sant’Ancieto

General view of the Church of Sant’Ancieto

The church was built by Giovanni Angelo Altemps starting in 1603 and was completed by 1618. Sant’Ancieto was one of the early popes from 154-167 AD.  And he is seen on the north wall pleading with authorities for his life. Except it is not really believed that the Pope died that way. So why would he be portrayed that way? Therein lies a tale of love, family pride, and devotion to duty.

Frescoes by Pomarancio showing Christ on the way to Calvary, the martyrdom of Sant’Ancieto and a woman gathering innocent blood that has fallen on Roman soil.

Frescoes by Pomarancio showing Christ on the way to Calvary, the martyrdom of Sant’Ancieto and a woman gathering innocent blood that has fallen on Roman soil.

Giovanni’s father was Roberto Altemps the illegitimate son of Cardinal Marco Sittico Altemps. When Sixtus V became Pope in 1585 he tried to clean up the corruption and graft. He became known as the law and order Pope. Roberto was accused of adultery, a crime that in those days was a capitol offense. Ordinary the punishment would have been to require Roberto to marry the woman, but in this case that was not possible since Roberto had just been married to a member of the Orsini family. Unfortunately this was the  same Orsini family that Pope Sixtus V held responsible for the death of his nephew.

 Close up of Pope Sant’Ancieto

Close up of Pope Sant’Ancieto

Roberto Altemps was punished by beheading in 1586. Did Roberto get a fair hearing? Was he the victim of the Pope’s reluctance to show favor to any one? It depends on what history you read, but clearly the Altemps family felt him innocent and his son chose to honor Sant’Ancieto in a way that would remind people of that innocence.

View from the church window of the Painted Loggia which contains the Gallery of the Twelve Caesars.

View from the church window of the Painted Loggia which contains the Gallery of the Twelve Caesars.

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On Scene with Bill Wilson Ludovisi’s Marbles

Text and Photos by Bill Wilson

In the years 1621 to 1623 Cardinal Ludovico Ludovisi assembled a collection of ancient marble sculptures that have become known as the Boncompagni Ludovisi Marbles to be displayed at his villa. These sculptures were to have a great influence on the Baroque culture. Having been restored by sculptors like Gian Lorenzo Bernini and Alessandro Algardi, they were reproduced in various medium and served to inspire artists such as the Spanish painter Velazquez, who saw then while staying in Rome and John Singleton Copley who used them in the background of his elegant portraits.

When Rome was named the Capitol of the unified Italy in 1861 there was pressure to build in the area of the Villa Ludovisi because its open parkland provided much needed space. The collection was dispersed but the Italian state was able to acquire much of it in 1901. Currently the sculptures are part of the display at the Museo Nazionale Romano/ Palazzo Altemps. In addition to the sculptures that were kept part of the collection, also on display is the famous “Ludovisi Throne” which was discovered in the area of the villa in 1887.


The front of the Ludovisi Throne showing the birth of Aphrodite  

The front of the Ludovisi Throne showing the birth of Aphrodite

In the English version of the guidebook, Museo Nazionale Romano, Nunizo Giustozzi explains, “It is now generally agreed that the craving on front represents the mythical birth of Aphrodite from foam, the perhaps not so allusive fruit of the severed genitals of Uranus after his son Cronus threw them into the sea…she is helped to emerge by the young and strong arms of the Horai.”

The left side is adorned with a Flute player

The left side is adorned with a Flute player

The right side is adorned with a bride.

The right side is adorned with a bride.

There isn’t the same general agreement on how it might have been used, where it came from or when it came to Rome.

The Juno Ludovisi is another famous part of the collection that has inspired poets, artists and writers. Goethe declared her his first Roman love. In a story by Henry James she comes alive.

Juno Ludovisi

Juno Ludovisi

Most scholars have identified this head as a young and idealized portrait of Antonia Minor, the Emperor Claudius’s mother, who was deified after her death in 37AD. Others think it may be the head of Livia the wife of Emperor Augustus. 
The front of the Grand Ludovisi Battle Sarcophagus

The front of the Grand Ludovisi Battle Sarcophagus

This Sarcophagus found in Rome in 1621 is one of the largest ever found. The theme of victory over the Barbarians is a common one in decoration of sarcophagi from the second half of the 2nd century to the first half of the 3rd century AD. The deceased is the figure in the center with his arm outstretched.
The Palazzo Altemps contains so many things to see at every turn

The Palazzo Altemps contains so many things to see at every turn


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On the Scene with Bill Wilson: A walk in Rome

A close up of the statue of the Virgin Mary that sits atop an ancient Roman column in Piazza Mignanelli, which is adjacent to the Piazza di Spagna.

A close up of the statue of the Virgin Mary that sits atop an ancient Roman column in Piazza Mignanelli, which is adjacent to the Piazza di Spagna.

We took our usual afternoon walk through the neighborhood, but today we picked a more distant neighborhood. A bus ride from the Tiburtina station took us to Via Del Tritone were we got off just before Via Del Babuino. That put us in a direct line to the Piazza del Popolo with the Piazza di Spagna along the way.

The view of the Colonna dell’Immacolata from the Piazza di Spagna.

The view of the Colonna dell’Immacolata from the Piazza di Spagna.

The statue of the Virgin Mary was put atop an ancient roman column in 1857 to celebrate Pope Pius IX’s declaration of the doctrine of Immaculate Conception. The statue was visible most of our walk along the Via Del Babuino. One of three roads called the Trident that converge at the Piazza del Popolo.

The condition of the Fontana del Sileno lead people to call it Babuino (the  baboon) and gave the street its name.

The condition of the Fontana del Sileno lead people to call it Babuino (the baboon) and gave the street its name.

Easter is considered the start of the tourist season in Rome. If our excursion was any indication it is off to a good start. The Spanish steps were covered with tourists. It was a beautiful sunny day that made the colors of the building seem even more vivid.
Fernando Orlandi stands in front of the Spanish steps in the Piazza di Spagna.

Fernando Orlandi stands in front of the Spanish steps in the Piazza di Spagna.

The guidebooks recommend a very circuitous route around this world famous shopping district, but the shops along the Via Del Babuino were enough for us. There were a great variety of shops, some of the names of which Americans would recognize.

A famous American name

A famous American name

A recognizable Italian name

A recognizable Italian name

It was fun to just walk along this street because you never knew what the next window might bring. You also never saw a price.

This little ring can inflict a lethal bite to the budget of unwary tourists.

This little ring can inflict a lethal bite to the budget of unwary tourists.

Before the camera became portable and easy as a click, a painting was the only way to share a view of what you had visited.

Before the camera became portable and easy as a click, a painting was the only way to share a view of what you had visited.

 Not made necessarily for comfort, they sure look good

Not made necessarily for comfort, they sure look good

Household items of quality available here

Household items of quality available here

Shopping isn’t the only reason to walk along the Via Del Babuino. The international flavor of Rome is reflected in the area. The Piazza de Spagna was named because when Spain had it s Embassy to the Holy See in the area it was considered Spanish territory. Along the Via Del Babuino is the All Saints Church, which holds Anglican services.

This photo was taken several blocks from the Piazza del Popolo, but looking back to where we started. The Virgin Mary statue can just be seen in the distance.

This photo was taken several blocks from the Piazza del Popolo, but looking back to where we started. The Virgin Mary statue can just be seen in the distance.

“Porta del Popolo” The door of the People was at the end of our walk.

“Porta del Popolo” The door of the People was at the end of our walk.

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On the Scene With Bill Wilson: Europe

Golden Gate view from the air after take off from SFO.

Golden Gate view from the air after take off from SFO.

Yes, we took a chance flying on April 1, but the fools were the ones who didn’t take advantage of the lower fares that started April 1. We were on our way to Rome for a 2 /2 month stay with my husband’s mother. Our flight took us through London’s Heathrow. Leaving San Francisco in the afternoon we arrived in London in the morning.

Buckingham Palace stands aloof from its London surroundings, but will soon be the center of attention during the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations in June.

Buckingham Palace stands aloof from its London surroundings, but will soon be the center of attention during the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations in June.

The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, marking her 60 years on the throne, is currently underway as she takes tours of areas of Britain and various boroughs of London. With the Jubilee events in June and the 2012 Summer Olympic Games coming in July and August, a busy travel season is expected for London this year. We didn’t have a long delay getting into Heathrow only a ten minute wait before heading down the Thames and getting a bird’s eye view of the sites famous world-wide.

30,000 plus feet above Paris makes the landmarks hard to detect, but the Seine is clearly visible as it winds its way through the city.

30,000 plus feet above Paris makes the landmarks hard to detect, but the Seine is clearly visible as it winds its way through the city.

The flight from London to Rome is a little more than two hours and takes you directly over France, the Alps and northern Italy.  The alps are almost always a breathtaking sight. Even on cloudy days some of the higher peaks can be seen rising above the clouds.

The Alps higher peaks break through the cloud cover

The Alps higher peaks break through the cloud cover

Once across the Alps the countryside of northern Italy is visible and the beautiful green countryside of Tuscany comes into better view as the descent into Rome’s Fumicino  airport begins. At the risk of being a little bit sentimental. I am really looking forward to this trip.

The northern Italian countryside from the plane on the way to a landing at Rome’s Fumicino Airport.

The northern Italian countryside from the plane on the way to a landing at Rome’s Fumicino Airport.

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San Francisco named Cleantech Capital of North America

Mayor Edwin M. Lee announced today that San Francisco has been named the Cleantech Capital of North America by the Cleantech Group, a leading cleantech industry research firm. The Cleantech Group presented the Mayor with the award at the EcoCity Showcase during the 10th Cleantech Forum conference being held in San Francisco this week.

“Through bold policy leadership and aggressive economic development efforts, San Francisco has become a leading center for the cleantech industry,” said Mayor Lee. “Thank you to the Cleantech Group for recognizing San Francisco as the ‘Cleantech Capital of North America.’ I am deeply proud of this important milestone, and I believe this is just the beginning as we are committed to making San Francisco’s cleantech ecosystem even stronger, more sustainable and more robust.”

“Cleantech Group is proud to name San Francisco the ‘Cleantech Capital of North America’ in recognition of the City’s ongoing support for all things clean and green,” said Cleantech Group CEO Sheeraz Haji. “No other city has done more to foster the innovation and deployment of cutting edge clean technologies.”

The Cleantech Group reported that San Francisco is home to 208 cleantech companies and cleantech investors – one the largest and most concentrated cleantech clusters in the world. This number does not include cleantech partners, sustainable construction and other green companies which would increase this number even further.

“From passing a tax exclusion for cleantech companies to recruiting international renewable energy firms, the City has made supporting the growth of the clean tech industry a priority,” said San Francisco Office of Economic and Workforce Development Director Jennifer Matz. “San Francisco offers leading cleantech firms access to top talent, unmatched proximity to investors and partners, and a City government which actively supports the cleantech sector.”

“A thriving clean tech sector is necessary to further San Francisco’s ambitious sustainability goals,” said San Francisco Department of Environment Director Melanie Nutter. “With the cutting edge products and services from our clean tech entrepreneurs, San Francisco continues to serve as hub for innovation, growth and sustainable excellence.”

Eleven companies in the Cleantech Group’s Global Cleantech 100 have locations in San Francisco, the most of any city. Seven of these cleantech firms are headquartered in San Francisco. The Global Cleantech 100 Companies located in San Francisco are: Adura Technologies, Mission Motors, Nexant, Project Frog, RelayRides, SCIenergy, SunRun, AMEE, Harvest Power, Heliatek and OPower.

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Mayor Lee announces the return of “Sunday Streets”, beginning March 11th

Mayor Edwin M. Lee has announced the return of the popular Sunday Streets program with a full schedule of car-free events starting Sunday, March 11th, along the Embarcadero. The eight-month Sunday Streets 2012 season opens streets to pedestrians, cyclists and people-powered wheels of all kinds by temporarily removing vehicular traffic on select Sundays, transforming street-space usually reserved for cars into recreational space for everyone to enjoy safely.

“Sunday Streets not only showcases San Francisco’s commitment to sustainability and innovation, it is a proven cost-effective way to better health for San Franciscans,” said Mayor Lee. “We’re committed to ensuring the program’s continued growth and success in 2012 and beyond. We look forward to returning to Chinatown, doing a more frequent Mission route, and adding a new route in the Southwest neighborhoods of our City to bring the benefits of Sunday Streets to more San Francisco neighborhoods.”

Founded in 2008, Sunday Streets has grown from two events to 10 and creates miles of car-free space on City roads. San Francisco was the third city in the United States to premier this free, community-oriented initiative. Since then it has become the nation’s largest, and one of the City’s most exciting initiatives promoting benefits such as biking, walking, recreation, and community-building. The program was one of only eight programs in the country to be selected for possible inclusion in Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” anti-obesity campaign.

Highlights this year include:

Continuing and possibly expanding the new Chinatown event;

Increasing the popular Mission District event to four consecutive events held on the first Sunday of May, June, July and August; and

Introducing a new route in Southwestern neighborhoods.

Sunday Streets is presented by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency and Livable City, Sunday Streets’ non-profit fiscal partner. The 2012 season is co-presented by Bank of America. The Mayor’s Office, San Francisco Police Department, Department of Public Works and the Recreation and Parks Department. “We are proud to host our most ambitious Sunday Streets program to date,” said SFMTA Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin. “The Sunday Streets program has a tremendous impact on San Franciscans and visitors alike, who have started to envision the streets in a whole new way; not just as a means to get from place to place, but as an opportunity to create a healthier, more connected City for all.”

“Sunday Streets brings tens of thousands of people outside to explore more than 20 distinct neighborhoods of San Francisco. As a global company founded in San Francisco, Bank of America is proud to support this wonderful event,” said Bank of America San Francisco and East Bay Market President Martin Richards. “Sunday Streets and Bank of America share a commitment to building economically strong, connected, healthy communities in San Francisco and to celebrate the many diverse communities that benefit from the program.”

Financial partners include: AT&T, Shape Up SF, Kaiser Permanente, Bay Area Air Quality Management District, California Pacific Medical Center, PG&E, Lennar, Park Merced, The Seed Fund, The California Endowment and UCSF. Neighborhood sponsors include Sports Basement, Mikes Bikes, REI, CH2MHILL, Clif Kid, The New Wheel, Darling International, Bi-Rite Markets, and The Exploratorium. Major in-kind support is provided by The American Red Cross Bay Area Chapter, which provides Emergency Medical support, City CarShare and Parkwide LLC. The San Francisco Examiner and Clear Channel Radio are media sponsors. The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition runs Sunday Streets’ volunteer program.

Business community support includes Fisherman’s Wharf, Tenderloin and Fillmore Community Benefits Districts, Lower 24th Street (Mission), Bayview, Taraval and Outer Sunset and Valencia Corridor Merchant Associations, San Francisco and Chinese Chambers of Commerce, and dozens of community groups representing host neighborhoods along Sunday Streets routes.

Sunday Streets 2012 Season Schedule (subject to change):

March 11: Embarcadero- Season kick off

April 15: Great Highway/Golden Gate park- new route through the park

May 6: Mission

June 3: Mission

July 1: Mission

July 22: Bayview

August 5: Mission

August TBA: Chinatown

September 9: Western Addition/N. Panhandle Alamo Square

October 21: Outer Mission/Excelsior

Click here to become a Volunteer for Sunday Streets 2012: Volunteer

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Gold Dust Landmark Submission is Pyrite Effort Property Owners Speak Against ‘Historic’ Designation for Tourist Bar

The tenants of the Gold Dust Lounge, a tourist bar since 1966, are seeking historic landmark status, but the owners of the property call the effort a mockery of historic preservation.

The Handlery family, which owns the Elkan Gunst Building at 301 Geary Street, already designated a Category 1 Significant Landmark, is speaking out to oppose the application by their tenant, the Gold Dust Lounge, to have the bar inside the building listed as an historic landmark itself.

“The attempt to use San Francisco’s important landmark process to give historical status to the Gold Dust Lounge is a cynical attempt to misuse the process in a landlord and tenant dispute,” said Sam Singer, a spokesman for the Handlery family which owns the property.

The proposal by the Gold Dust Lounge for historical preservation comes on the heels of the landlord providing notice to the Bar, according to the agreed upon conditions of their lease, that it had 90 days to find a new location for their establishment. The land marking effort is a tactic by the bar to remain in the building, but it won’t work because the lease for the Gold

Dust Lounge expires in early March and they must be out by that date or face significant legal and financial penalties.

The materials to landmark the bar, submitted by the Gold Dust Lounge, appear to be grasping to pull together a comprehensive history of this schizophrenic bar. In the report the author tried to explain how the bar is an example of an “American’ cocktail lounge of the mid-twentieth century’ with art deco overlaid by ‘Gay Nineties’ and a bar ‘associated with important aspects of the San Francisco nightlife culture.’” The description begs the question, what exactly is the historical importance of the Gold Dust Lounge?

Back in the 1985 submittal to landmark the entire Elkan Gunst Building, the interior of the Gold Dust Lounge was rated as “fair/poor” and was not deemed worthy of inclusion into the historical designation of the Handlery’s building as a character-defining feature then, and should not be considered one now, Singer said.

The 1960’s bar does not convey, nor contribute to the historical significance of the Elkan Gunst Building. The baroque style of the historic building and the Kearny-Market-Mason-Sutter Conversion District is historically respectable unlike the tawdry exterior of the Gold Dust Lounge, he added.

The proposition that the bar could be individually eligible for the land marking status under the well-established National Register Criteria is meritless and is discouraged by the Office of Historic Preservation and various National Register Bulletins. The criterion for this honor applies to properties significant for their design or construction, including such elements as architecture, landscape architecture, engineering or artwork. It cannot be sufficient that a bar is an example of an “American’ cocktail lounge of the mid-twentieth century,” as suggested – there is no scarcity of those. There, Singer added, the landmark status should be rejected by the preservation board.

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On the Scene With Bill Wilson – In the Wake of Queen Elizabeth

By Bill Wilson
Sentinel Photojournalist
Bill Wilson © 2012

Detail of the No Stopping sign in front of the Cruise Terminal. Bill Wilson photo

Queen Elizabeth was in San Francisco just a day ahead of the 60th anniversary of her ascension to the English throne. Of course it was the ship, Queen Elizabeth not the actual monarch, but it makes a wonderful connection to the story I was going to write anyway, just to show off my royal portrait of the Queen.

The Cunard Line’s Queen Elizabeth as viewed from the Butterfly Restaurant’s outside seating. Bill Wilson photo

Princess Elizabeth and Prince Phillip were five days into a five month around the world trip when her Father, King George VI passed away in his sleep. They had arrived in Kenya and were spending a private day in a remote area watching wildlife. They had spent the night at a place called “Treetops” where high above a water hole they could observe the wild animals come to drink.

Tradition says that once a reigning monarch’s heart stops their heir becomes monarch in that instant. Princess Elizabeth remained unaware that she had become Queen for several hours. It was only realized that the King had died when his staff was unable to wake him. The message that the King had died was sent in code to the various officials, however the person who had the codes was on his way to meet the Princess so it wasn’t until reporters traveling with the Princess were called by people at their papers that the Princess’ staff was made aware of the situation. It was Prince Phillip who broke the news to her that her father had died.

Queen Elizabeth 2 dressed in mourning descends the steps of the plane that returned her from Africa to London. Prince Phillip is five steps behind.

In a book, whose title I’ve forgotten, on the Queen’s coronation, the author observed that it might be considered morbid if someone was to pack black clothes in their travel bags, but for Princess Elizabeth, it was just a matter of duty. In a recent story (January 9) in the “Daily Mail” reporter Chris Slack revealed that there was a mix up about the clothes. He wrote, “Arrangements were quickly made for the Royal party to return to London, with a plane flying them from Nanyuki, a nearby town, to Entebbe where a plane was waiting. During the flight, another problem arose in that the Queen’s mourning outfit had already gone ahead and she only had a floral dress to wear. The aircraft decided to land in North Africa where a message was sent ahead and a second black outfit was taken to London airport. Upon the flight’s arrival, the dress was taken aboard after it stopped in the remote area of the airport. The Queen changed quickly before emerging, meeting a line-up including her uncle the Duke of Gloucester and Churchill.”

During her 1976 visit to Washington, DC I was able to get this photo of the Queen as she did a walk about at the Lincoln Memorial. Bill Wilson photo

Back to the ship, the Queen Elizabeth is Cunard’s newest ship having just been put into service in 2010. It is the second largest ship in the Cunard fleet, second only to the Queen Mary 2. In making her maiden call to the Port of San Francisco the Queen Elizabeth follows in the wake of her sister ships, the Queen Mary 2 and the Queen Victoria.

The Queen Mary 2 does fit under the Golden Gate Bridge on February 4, 2007 just five years to the day before the QE maiden call to San Francisco Bill Wilson photo

The Queen Mary 2 is Cunard’s largest ship and thousands of people on both land and water came to witness and welcome her as she traveled under the Golden Gate Bridge on February 4, 2007. It wasn’t as close a fit as some had speculated it might be.

A view of the Golden Gate Bridge from one of the lounges on the Queen Victoria which made her maiden call to the port of San Francisco on January 27, 2010. Bill Wilson photo

The Queen Victoria made her inaugural stop in San Francisco on January 27, 2010. Invitation only tours were given of the ship and her beautiful interiors in an effort to give people a taste of cruising.

The upper decks of the Queen Elizabeth tower above the Pier 35 where she docked in San Francisco.

The stop in San Francisco is part of the world cruise that Queen Elizabeth is currently on. Spending little more than 13 hours in Port by 9pm she was on her way to Hawaii.

The Bridge of the Queen Elizabeth can be seen through the windows of the Cruise Terminal at Pier 35.

Sentinel Photojournalist
Bill Wilson is a San Francisco-based veteran photojournalist. Bill embraced photojournalism at the age of eight. In recent years, his photos capture historic record of the San Francisco LGBT community in the Bay Area Reporter (BAR), The New York Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, The San Francisco Examiner, SFist, SFAppeal. Bill has contributed to the Sentinel for the past seven years. Email Bill Wilson at

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On Scene with Bill Wilson Above London Royal Views

By Bill Wilson
Sentinel Photojournalist
Bill Wilson © 2012

The first time we flew British Airways to Rome via London I wasn’t prepared for the fact that the flight path seemed to take us right over the Thames and London’s famous landmarks. This time I was prepared but the weather wasn’t as good.

Big Ben is in the center of this photo, Westminster Abbey on the left and the London Eye can be seen at the top right.

From the air you can see the stark contrasts between the old and new London. The sleek new buildings erected along side buildings that have stood for centuries.

Buckingham Palace is almost obscured by the buildings on one side but surrounded by beautiful parks and greens on the other sides.

Coming back from Rome to London on a smaller plane the flight path took us around London rather than down the Thames, but it did take us almost directly over Windsor Castle and the surrounding countryside.

This is only about half of Windsor Castle. The State Apartments are on the top side of this photo.


Key to plan (right)

  • A: The Round Tower
  • B: The Upper Ward, The Quadrangle (as this courtyard is known)
  • C: The State Apartments
  • D: Private Apartments, overlooking the East terrace
  • E: South Wing, overlooking The Long Walk
  • F: Lower Ward
  • G: St. George’s Chapel
  • H: Horseshoe Cloister
  • L: The Long Walk
  • K: King Henry VIII Gate (principal entrance)
  • M: Norman Gate
  • N: North Terrace
  • O: Edward IV Tower
  • T: The Curfew Tower

A better view of the East Terrace.
With any bit of luck this is Eton, Britain’s famous public (meaning private) school.

It is difficult to tell from the sky what the various towns and places are, but I think this is Eton because when I searched the internet for photos they looked very similar to me.

Sentinel Photojournalist
Bill Wilson is a San Francisco-based veteran photojournalist. Bill embraced photojournalism at the age of eight. In recent years, his photos capture historic record of the San Francisco LGBT community in the Bay Area Reporter (BAR), The New York TimesThe San Francisco ChronicleThe San Francisco ExaminerSFistSFAppeal. Bill has contributed to the Sentinel for the past seven years. Email Bill Wilson at

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Quake in Turkey kills 75, collapses buildings in 7.2 Earthquake

A powerful 7.2-magnitude earthquake struck eastern Turkey, killing at least 75 people and sparking panic as it collapsed buildings into piles of twisted steel and chunks of concrete.

Desperate survivors dug Sunday into the rubble with their bare hands, trying to rescue the trapped and injured.

State-run TRT television reported that 59 people were killed and 150 injured in the eastern town of Ercis, and 15 others died in the provincial center of Van. Another person died in the nearby province of Bitlis.

PHOTOS: Powerful quake strikes Turkey

As many as 80 buildings collapsed in Ercis, including a dormitory, and 10 buildings collapsed in Van, the Turkish Red Crescent said. Some highways also caved in, CNN-Turk television reported.

“There are so many dead. Several buildings have collapsed. There is too much destruction,” Ercis mayor Zulfikar Arapoglu told NTV television. “We need urgent aid. We need medics.”

Rescuers in Van scrambled to find survivors in a flattened eight-story building that had shops on the ground floor, television footage showed. Residents sobbed outside the ruins, hoping that missing relatives would be rescued.

“My wife and child are inside! My 4-month-old baby is inside!” CNN-Turk television showed one young man crying.

Witnesses said eight people were rescued from the rubble, but frequent aftershocks were hampering search efforts, CNN-Turk reported.

Serious damage and casualties were also reported in the district of Celebibag, near Ercis.

“There are many people under the rubble,” Veysel Keser, mayor of Celebibag, told NTV. “People are in agony, we can hear their screams for help. We need urgent help.”

He said many buildings had collapsed, including student dormitories, hotels and gas stations.

The quake’s epicenter was in the village of Tabanli, 10 miles (17 kilometers) from Van. It struck at 10:41 a.m. local time, at a depth of 12.4 miles (20 kilometers), according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

Turkey lies in one of the world’s most active seismic zones and is crossed by numerous fault lines. Lake Van, where Sunday’s earthquake hit, is in the country’s most earthquake-prone region.

U.S. scientists recorded eight aftershocks within three hours of the quake, including two with a magnitude of 5.6.

Atalay said authorities had no information yet on remote villages but the governor was touring the region by helicopter to assess the damage.

The Kandilli observatory, Turkey’s main seismography center, said the quake was capable of killing many people.

“We are estimating a death toll between 500 and 1,000,” Mustafa Erdik, head of the Kandilli observatory, told a televised news conference.

In Van, terrified residents spilled into the streets in panic as rescue workers and residents using their bare hands and shovels struggled to find people believed to be trapped under collapsed buildings, television footage showed. At least 50 people were treated in the courtyard of the state hospital, the state-run Anatolia news agency said.

There was no immediate information about a recently restored 10th century Armenian church, Akdamar Church, which is perched on a rocky island in the nearby Lake Van.

Houses also collapsed in the province of Bitlis, where an 8-year-old girl was killed, authorities said. The quake also toppled the minarets of two mosques in the nearby province of Mus.

NTV said Van’s airport was damaged and planes were being diverted to neighboring cities.

The earthquake also shook buildings in neighboring Armenia. In the Armenian capital of Yerevan, 100 miles (160 kilometers) from Ercis, people rushed into the streets fearing buildings would collapse but no damage or injuries were immediately reported.

Armenia was the site of a devastating earthquake in 1988 that killed 25,000 people.

The quake’s epicenter was in the village of Tabanli in eastern Van province, bordering Iran. It was felt in northwest Iran, causing some panic in major cities, Iranian media reported, but without any mention of casualties or damage.

The quake was felt in Iran’s cities of Orumiyeh, Khoy and Salmas near the border, the official IRNA news agency reported.

It was also felt in Tabriz, an Iranian city about 200 kilometers east of the epicenter, the Mehr news agency reported, quoting the regional governor general, Jafar Zolfaqari.

The tremors were strong enough to cause “scenes of panic among the population of the cities,” according to several Iranian media.

However, there was “currently no indication of damage or casualties” in Iranian territory, Zolfaqari said.

Israel on Sunday offered humanitarian assistance to Turkey despite a rift in relations following an 2010 Israeli navy raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla that left nine Turks dead. In September, Turkey expelled the Israeli ambassador and suspended military ties because Israel has not apologized. Israel has sent rescue teams to Turkey after past earthquakes in times of closer ties.

Turkey sees frequent earthquakes. In 1999, two earthquakes with a magnitude of more than 7 struck northwestern Turkey, killing about 18,000 people.

More recently, a 6.0-magnitude quake in March 2010 killed 51 people in eastern Turkey, while in 2003, a 6.4-magnitude earthquake killed 177 people in the southeastern city of Bingol.

Turkey’s worst earthquake in the last century came in 1939 in the eastern city of Erzincan, causing an estimated 160,000 deaths.

Istanbul, Turkey’s largest city with more than 12 million people, lies in northwestern Turkey near a major fault line. Authorities say Istanbul is ill-prepared for a major earthquake and experts have warned that overcrowding and faulty construction could lead to the deaths of over 40,000 people if a major earthquake struck the city.

By the Los Angeles Times: Special correspondent Ramin Mostaghim from Tehran contributed to this report.


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San Francisco Rug & Textile Show Opens This Week: More than 40 Oriental Rug and Textile Dealers From Around The World to Present Carpets, Rugs, Textiles for Home Decorating and Collecting


The Marina District’s Capri Hotel is turned into a souk (market) that resembles Marrakech this week for the annual rug and textile show that draws dealers, collectors and decorators from around the World.


If you love oriental rugs, textiles and tribal arts, this week marks the third annual gathering of dealers of Oriental rugs and textiles in San Francisco from around the World. The dealers take over San Francisco’s Capri Motel in the Marina District and turn it into a souk (market) that resembles Marrakech and sell their wares to collectors, decorators, and people interested in acquiring historic and artistic textiles.

The 3rd annual Antique Rug & Textile Show will be held in San Francisco’s Marina District this week Friday to Sunday, Oct. 21 to 23 at the Motel Capri, 2015 Greenwich St. Hours are 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. Admission is free and open to the public.

Prior to the show on Thursday evening Oct. 20, there will be an opening reception hosted by the Antique Rug & Textile Art Association (ARTAA), host of the annual event, now one of the largest annual rug shows and sales worldwide.

More than 40 international dealers will be participating in the show. The event also features a special exhibition of Turkmen bags from three highly regarded private collections.

This is THE event of the year for the most serious textile enthusiasts, but the show also makes a special effort in educating the public and encouraging appreciation for textile arts. To this end, there will be a special theme room dedicated to introducing new patrons to the art. The room will be staffed throughout the show by knowledgeable specialists from various areas of textile art. The room will also host the annual Show & Tell at noon on Sunday, Oct. 23.

The public and collector community are encouraged to bring in rugs and textiles from their collections for free appraisals.

Free seminars from several experts specializing in various areas of textile arts will be available to explain nuances of structure and materials of rugs and textiles, geographic attributions and identification of pieces and any related questions. This year’s seminars include talks by experts on Baluch Group Weavings and Sumak Flatweaves Attributed to the Shahsevan.

Join the fun and buy and learn about real textiles and rugs from the best in the business. If you’re a hardcore textile-head or just someone wanting to buy oriental carpets for your home, the Antique Rug and Textile Show is the show of the year.

Dealers participating in the show include:

Alberto Levi – Milan, Italy; Ali Aydin – Germantown, MD; Amin Motamedi – Hamburg, Germany; Andy Lloyd – Bath, United Kingdom; Ben Banayan – San Francisco; Bertram Frauenknecht – Istanbul, Turkey; Bob Brundage – Petaluma, Calif.; Chuck Paterson – Santa Fe, NM; Craig Hatch – Nomadic, USA; Cuneyt Yesilcay – Istanbul, Turkey; DeWitt Mallary – New York, NY; Ed Koch / Herat Gallery – Miami, FL; Fred Hazin; George Fine – Santa Fe, NM; Hamid Rafatpanah – Bryn Mawr, PA; Hagop Manoyan – New York, NY; James Cohen – Milan, Italy; Jeff Dworsky – Stonington, ME; Joe Loux-San Francisco; John Collins – Watertown, MA; John Ruddy – Santa Fe, NM; Linda Pastorino/Sinkiang – Chester, NJ; Mark Berkovich – Galilee, Israel; Mete Mutlu – Chicago, Ill.; Michael Craycraft – Stuttgart, Germany; Michael Phillips – Arvada, CO; Mohammad Tehrani – Hamburg, Germany; Nick Wright – Williamstown, MA; Nunzio Crisa / Uroburo – Milan, Italy; Owen Parry – London; Patrick Pouler – Santa Barbara, Calif.; Peter Pap – San Francisco; Reyn Staffel – Springfield, OR; Rodney McDonald – Rochester, NY; Rudolf Geissmann – Cardiff by the Sea, CA; / Wesley Marquand – Culver City, Calif.; Saeed Imani; Seref Ozen / Cocoon – Istanbul, Turkey; Stolp Fraser – East Hampton, NY; Thom Mond – New Hampshire; Udo Langauer – Vienna, Austria; Ulrike Montigel – Stuttgart, Germany; Wayne Barron – Cambridge, MA.





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Jeff Adachi’s pension battle likely defeated by labor-backed initiative – Bay Citizen/USF Poll


By Zusha Elinson
The Bay Citizen

Last year, maverick public defender Jeff Adachi raised a lonely cry about San Francisco’s multi-billion dollar pension crisis, enraging the city’s labor unions.

A fierce, union-backed campaign crushed his 2010 pension reform measure. Adachi reemerged this year with Proposition D, another pension fix, only to be painted as an anti-union Republican in a series of stinging television spots.

Now it appears that Adachi, who is also running for mayor, will not get the victory he has so doggedly sought.

Continue Reading: Adahi’s Battle

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Palestinians celebrate release of prisoners

palestine celebrate 2
Released Hamas militant Fakhre Barghouti waves to the crowd after arriving in the West Bank city
of Ramallah, Tuesday,Oct 18, 2011. The Hamas militant group released an Israeli soldier Tuesday more
than five years after his capture, turning him over to Egyptian mediators in exchange
for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners.


Al Jazeera

Tens of thousands of Palestinians have celebrated the homecoming of over 400 prisoners released in the first phase of an agreement brokered with Israel for the exchange of Gilad Shalit, the captured Israeli soldier.

Hamas, which negotiated the exchange, organised a celebration in the enclave on Tuesday that turned into a show of strength for the Palestinian resistance group that governs the Gaza Strip and rivals President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah.

Thousands take to the streets of Gaza and the West Bank to welcome prisoners released in exchange for Gilad Shalit

palestine celebrate 1
Hundreds of people gathered in Ramallah to celebrate the return of prisoners freed under a swap deal
with Israel which freed captured Israeli soldier Gilad SHlait after five years of captivity

The joyous crowd crammed into a sandy lot, where a huge stage was set up, decorated with a mural depicting the capture of Shalit at an army base near the Gaza border.

“The people want a new Gilad!” the crowd chanted, suggesting the abductions of Israeli soldiers would mean freedom for thousands more Palestinians imprisoned in Israel.

palestine celebrate 3
A Palestinian prisoner gestures as he enters Gaza via the Rafah crossing from Egypt
October 18, 2011. The Gaza Strip and West Bank gave a jubilant welcome on Tuesday to
hundreds of Palestinians freed from Israeli prisons in exchange for the release of Gilad Shalit,
the Israeli soldier held for five years by the enclave’s Islamist rulers, Hamas.

More than 5,000 Palestinians are in Israeli prisons – some for taking up arms against Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian lands, others on what rights groups call questionable charges.

In the West Bank, Abbas addressed a crowd of several thousand – praising the released prisoners as “freedom fighters”.

Abbas shared a stage with three Hamas leaders in a display of national unity.

palestine celebrate 4
Palestinian prisoners gestures as they enter Gaza via the Rafah crossing from Egypt October 18,
2011. Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit returned home to a national outpouring of joy on Tuesday after five
years in captivity as hundreds of Palestinian prisoners exchanged for him were greeted with kisses f
rom Hamas leaders in the Gaza Strip.

At one point, the four men raised clasped hands in triumph.

Friends and family members wept tears of joy for the released prisoners whom Israel considers “terrorists”, but they regard as “freedom fighters”.

‘Indescribable happiness’

In Gaza City, Azhar Abu Jawad, 30, celebrated the return of a brother who had been sentenced to life for killing an Israeli in 1992.

She said that she last saw him eight years ago, before Israel banned visits by Gazans.

palestine celebrate 5
Palestinian prisoners cross to the southern Gaza Strip from the Egyptian side of the Rafah border on October 18,
2011 upon their release from Israeli prisons under a landmark deal to free abducted Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit after
five years of Hamas captivity.

“My happiness is indescribable,” she said. “We’ll get him a bride and everything. I just spoke to him. He’s so happy. This is a reminder God doesn’t forget anyone.”

Sobhia Jundiya of the West Bank town of Bethlehem travelled to Egypt with her husband to catch a brief glimpse of their 28-year-old son, Ibrahim, who was being released after 10 years. He had been sentenced to multiple life terms for an attack that killed 12 and wounded 50.

“It’s better he be in Gaza even if I can’t see him. It’s better than prison in Israel,” she said.

“I hope to see him for a few minutes,” she said, beginning to cry. “This is the day I have been dreaming of for 10 years. I haven’t touched his hand in 10 years.”

In the end, the Jundiyas were unable to see him because the prisoners’ convoy did not stop during its brief swing through Egypt. The couple will try to go to Gaza, but it is difficult for Palestinians living in the West Bank to obtain such permission from Israel or Egypt.

Israel prevents most movement between the West Bank and Gaza, and restricts movement between cities and towns in the West Bank.

Shalit’s hope

Gilad Shalit was handed over to Egyptian officials early on Tuesday at the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt, and was then taken by Israeli officials to the Tel Nof air base.

In an interview with Egyptian television at Rafah, Shalit said that he hoped that the deal that allowed for his release would help Israelis and Palestinians achieve peace.

“I will be very happy if all Palestinian prisoners are freed so they can go back to their families [...] I hope this deal could help reach peace between Israelis and the Palestinians and strengthen cooperation,” he said.

palestine celebrate 6
Gaza’s Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, left, greets a released Palestinian prisoner
at the Rafah border crossing in southern Gaza Strip, Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2011. The Hamas
militant group released an Israeli soldier Tuesday more than five years after his capture,
turning him over to Egyptian mediators in exchange for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners.

Saree Makdisi, an author and professor at the University of California, told Al Jazeera that the value of the prisoner swap should not be overestimated.

“We have to remember that the Israelis raid the West Bank literally on a nightly basis, usually ten times a day, an average of 300-400 raids a month,” he said.

“On all these raids, they collect prisoner after prisoner, so in an average month, they capture 300-400 prisoners, held against international law, held in appalling circumstances.”

palestine celebrate 7
A freed Palestinian prisoner is hugged by a relative upon arrival at the Rafah crossing with Egypt
in the southern Gaza Strip October 18, 2011. Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit and hundreds of Palestinians
crossed Israel’s borders in opposite directions on Tuesday as a thousand-for-one prisoner exchange
brought joy to families but did little to ease decades of conflict.

Palestinians have long argued that no peace agreement could be reached without the release of all Palestinians held in Israeli prisons.

Hamas reached a deal with Israel last week for the release 1,027 prisoners in exchange for Shalit, who was captured in 2006 and has since been held in the Gaza Strip. The Palestinian prisoners will be released in two phases.


See Related: Gilad Shalit reunited with his family

See Related: Gilad Shalit Agreement Archive

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