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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

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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BILL WILSON
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 wfwilson@sbcglobal.net.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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

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A better view of the East Terrace.
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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.

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BILL WILSON
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 wfwilson@sbcglobal.net.

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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

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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; RugBooks.com / 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

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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

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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.

PALESTINIAN NATIONAL ANTHEM

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

WE WILL NOT GO DOWN

See Related: Gilad Shalit reunited with his family

See Related: Gilad Shalit Agreement Archive

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50% of Americans want marijuana legalized – All time, ahem, high

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The Los Angeles Times

Slowly but surely, Americans seem to be making peace with the pot pipe.

According to a poll released by Gallup on Monday, 50% of Americans surveyed say marijuana use should be legal — up from 46% last year. This year, 46% percent said it should be illegal.

Those numbers mean that, for the first time in the poll’s 42-year-history, Americans who say that marijuana should be legal outnumber those who say it should be illegal.

Societal acceptance of marijuana has come a long way since 1969, when Gallup first posed the question “Should marijuana use be legal?” Back then, only 12% of Americans favored legalization of the drug. From the ’70s through the mid-’90s, support remained in the 20s, but it has been climbing steadily since 2002.

Some interesting results from the most recent poll:

•Men are more likely to support legalizing marijuana than women (55% vs. 46%).

•People in the West are more likely to support it than people in the East (55% vs. 51%).

•People ages 18-29 are twice as likely to support marijuana use as people 65 or older (62% vs. 31%).

The findings come less than six months after the federal government ruled that marijuana should remain classified as a Schedule 1 drug, which means the government considers it as dangerous as heroin.

In June, Michele M. Leonhart, head of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, said that marijuana would remain classified as Schedule 1 because it “has a high potential for abuse” and “has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.”

That now appears slightly out of step with what most Americans think. A Gallup survey last year found that 70% of people favored making it legal for doctors to prescribe marijuana to reduce pain and suffering.

See Related: California Medical Association calls for legalization of marijuana

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Teenagers pick Ed Lee for mayor – 8,600 San Francisco school students cast ballots

By Heather Knight and Rachel Gordon
The San Francisco Chronicle

Certain candidates for office in the Nov. 8 election must be counting their lucky stars that you have to be 18 to vote.

say-what

More than 8,600 students in all of San Francisco’s public high schools participated in Youth Vote, a mock election in which they got to fill out the same ballot their parents and grandparents will (hopefully) cast by election day.

STAY, CAN’T YA?

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Gilad Shalit reunited with his family

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YNetNews.com

TEL NOF, Israel – Less than an hour after the IDF soldier’s release and return to Israel, an IAF helicopter transported him to Tel Nof air base in central Israel, where he met his loved ones

After returning to Israel just before noon on Tuesday, Shalit underwent a physical examination. IDF Spokesperson Brig.-Gen. Yoav Mordechai said his medical condition was “good and stable”.

Netanyahu told the parents, Noam and Aviva, at the start of the reunion at the Tel Nof Israel Air Force base, south-east of Tel Aviv, where Gilad was helicoptered from the border with Egypt ‘

I have brought your boy home.’

When he received the soldier, he said, ‘Shalom (hello) Gilad, welcome back to the state of Israel.

‘It is so good to see you home.’

No media was allowed to be present at the emotional reunion.

PRAY FOR HEALING

Shalit showered, put on an IDF uniform and spoke with his parents before flying to Tel Nof.

At the base, he met Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz.

The freed Israeli soldier entered the Kerem Shalom crossing just before noon on Tuesday and was greeted by Israeli army officers, including OC Southern Command, Major General Tal Rousso.

Shalit said that he received word of his expected release last week.

“I’ve felt it coming in the past month. I’m very excited.”

At the beginning of the interview, Gilad was asked about his medical condition, to which he replied:

“I don’t feel so well from the whole affair.”

However, he was translated back into Arabic as saying: “I feel good.”

The first images of Shalit were aired at 1030 Israel time, as he was seen escorted by Egyptian security personnel at a terminal in Egypt.

Ahmed Jabari, head of Hamas’ military wing, was one of those seen leading Shalit in the video.

EGYPTIAN TV INTERVIEW

In an interview broadcast by Egyptian television on Tuesday moments after he was transferred into Egyptian custody, Shalit said,

“I thought I’d find myself in this situation for many years to come”.

KEEP HOPE ALIVE

See Related: Palestinians celebrate release of prisoners

See Related: Gilad Shalit Agreement Archive

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Gilad Shalit: I haven’t seen people in a long time – He hopes prisoner exchange leads to peace – Video

Shalit tells Egyptian television that he is in good health and his Hamas captors had treated him well, but he missed his family and speaking to people
First words: “I thought I’d find myself in this situation for many years to come”

Haaretz

Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit said Tuesday that he had been treated well by his Hamas captors during the five years he was held hostage, telling Egyptian television in the first interview following his release that he was relieved to finally be surrounded by people.

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Gilad Shalit with GOC Southern Command Major-General Tal Russo

Speaking through a translator, Shalit said he would be very happy if remaining Palestinians held in Israeli prisons were freed to return to their own families.

“Of course I miss my family very much. I also miss my friends,” he said. “I hope this deal will lead to peace between Palestinians and Israelis and that it will support cooperation between both sides.”

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The border gate closes as Palestinian prisoners enter Gaza via the Rafah crossing from Egypt October 18, 2011
Ma’an Photo By Andrew Winning

“I’m very emotional. I haven’t seen people in a long time. I missed my family. I missed seeing people, and talking to them,” he said.

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Shalit, 25, looked tired and dazed, hesitating as he replied to questions from an Egyptian TV reporter. Speaking through a translator, Shalit said he was in good health and that he hoped his release in exchange for hundreds of Palestinians held in Israeli prisons would lead to peace between the two peoples.

“Of course I miss my family very much. I also miss my friends,” he said. “I hope this deal will lead to peace between Palestinians and Israelis and that it will support cooperation between both sides.”

Shalit also said he would be very happy if remaining Palestinians held in Israeli prisons were freed to return to their own families, “as long as they do not return to attacking Israel”.

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Aviva and Noam Shalit, parents of Gilad Shalit

Shalit said he was informed of his impending release about one week ago. He said he had feared he would remain in captivity for “many more years” and remained afraid that “things may go wrong.”

Israel and Hamas agreed through Egyptian mediation late last Monday on a deal that secured Shalit’s release in exchange for 1,027 Palestinian prisoners. Shalit officially passed into Israeli custody on Tuesday morning.

Al Jazeera contributed to this report.

See Related: San Francisco gathers to witness the release and homecoming of Gilad Shalit October 19 8:00 AM

See Related: Gilad Shalit Agreement Archive

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Gilad Shalit back home in Israel

Official confirmation of the IDF soldier’s homecoming come as Egypt TV releases first Shalit images since his release

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Gilad Shalit being released, Oct. 18, 2011.
Egypt TV Photo

By Anshel Pfeffer, Yaniv Kubovich
Haaretz

Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit, who has spent more than five years in Hamas captivity in the Gaza Strip, has officially passed into Israeli custody on Tuesday.

Shalit’s return to Israel came after the IDF has officially passed into Israeli custody less than an hour earlier, and after Egyptian TV released the first images of the Israeli soldier since his release.

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Video capture of Gilad Shalit on Oct. 18
BBC News Photo

An Israel Defense Forces official confirmed that Shalit was identified at the Rafah border crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt and was “alive and well.”

Earlier Hamas said Israel completed the transfer of Palestinian prisoners due to be deported overseas and the Gaza Strip into Egypt, in a clear sign that a deal geared at securing Shalit’s release was on track.

Speaking through a translator, Shalit said he would be very happy if remaining Palestinians held in Israeli prisons were freed to return to their own families.

“Of course I miss my family very much. I also miss my friends,” he said. “I hope this deal will lead to peace between Palestinians and Israelis and that it will support cooperation between both sides.”

The Hamas report came following a brief stall in the prisoner exchange deal after IDF officials said two female Palestinian prisoners refused to be deported into the Gaza Strip.

One of the prisoners resisting deportation is reportedly Amna Muna, who was jailed for life in 2003 for luring 16-year-old Israeli Ofir Rahum from Ashkelon to Ramallah, where he was shot dead by Fatah terrorists.

According to the IDF official, Muna and a second prisoner were afraid of reprisal attacks by Gaza families, following Muna’s apparent domination of prisoners in her Israeli jail.

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Al Jazeera Photo

Reports in Egyptian media claimed that Egypt agreed to receive Muna, thus averting her planned deportation to Gaza.

Earlier Tuesday, it was confirmed that Shalit was passed into Egyptian custody at around 8 A.M. Tuesday morning, bringing an end to his more than five years in Hamas captivity in the Gaza Strip An Al-Arabiya report claimed Shalit had arrived at the Kerem Shalom by mid-morning.

Israel is freeing a total of 1,027 Palestinian and Israeli Arab prisoners in return for the soldier.

Chief of Hamas operations in the West Bank Ahmed Yousef confirmed that Shalit had indeed been passed over to Egyptian hands. Arab media reports claimed Shalit was passed over to Egypt wearing an IDF uniform, and that he was handed over by the chief of Hamas’ military wing Ahmed Jabari.

Meanwhile, buses carrying Palestinian prisoners began their journey across Israel’s border with Egypt and into the West Bank on Tuesday morning, a de facto confirmation that the IDF soldier in fact has passed out of Hamas control.

Gilad Shalit’s family left their home at Mitzpe Hila in northern Israel on Tuesday morning, arriving at the Israel Air Force base at Tel Nof in the center of the country, where they will see him for the first time since his capture. IDF chief Benny Gantz was also making his way to the IAF base.

The transfer of the soldier comes after the completion of the first stage of the prisoner exchange, as all 477 prisoners to go free in this round were transfered to locations on the Gaza border, in the West Bank and, in the case of the Israeli Arab prisoners included in the deal, East Jerusalem. Some of the Palestinian prisoners are to be sent to the Gaza Strip, some to the West Bank and some are to be deported.

Israel Radio reported that Amna Muna, the female terrorist who was supposed to be deported as part of the Shalit deal, will instead be transferred to the Gaza Strip instead. Muna was jailed for life in 2003 for luring Israeli teen Ofir Rahum from Ashkelon to Ramallah, where he was shot dead by Fatah terrorists. An IDF official said the deal temporarily stalled in mid-morning after Muna and another female prisoner refused to be deported to Gaza.

As dawn broke, the first convoy of prisoners from Ketziot prison arrived at Ofer jail, near the West Bank city of Ramallah, and a short time later another convoy of prisoners, also from Ketziot, arrived at the Kerem Shalom crossing, where they were to be delivered to Gaza via Egypt. The prisoners were to be taken off the buses and identified; at Kerem Shalom they were transfered to Egyptian authorities to be taken to Gaza and at Ofer they were handed over to Red Cross officials.

Late Monday, the last legal obstacle to the release of Shalit was effectively removed after the High Court of Justice rejected petitions against the execution of the prisoner swap deal. The petitions were filed by families of terror victims who were killed in attacks planned, ordered and/or perpetrated by some of those freed in the deal.

Mitzpe Hila closes to visitors

Members of the Shalit family, parents Noam and Aviva, brother Yoel and sister Hadas, left this morning shortly after 6 A.M. for the Tel Nof Air Base. Gilad’s grandfather, Tzvi, and grandmother, Yael (Noam’s parents) were also to join them.

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Noam arrived back to Mitzpe Hila Monday evening after a long day at the High Court. He chose not to talk to the media and rushed directly into his house.

The Yishuv attracted travelers and curios onlookers throughout the day, who chose to be photographed by the Shalit family home. On Monday evening, shortly after the news broadcasts ended, media personnel distanced themselves from the home, and the army police and Israel Police Force hermetically sealed the site.

There is currently no access to the path leading to the Shalit family’s home. The entire Yishuv will be closed to visitors and the front gate closed since Tuesday morning. Only the media will be permitted access to a pre-prepared stage.

A special brochure will be handed out Tuesday morning to the large audience expected to visit Mitzpe Hila, which has turned into a pilgrimage site. Among other things written in the brochure, is “We now need to be exhibit patience, allow Gilad – after 1,941 days – to return to daily life at his own rate.” Children of the yishuv went from house to house, handing out t-shirts with the words, “Gilad, we’re waiting for you at home.” Residents of the yishuv are preparing to wear the t-shirts and stand in a human chain upon his return.

See Related: San Francisco gathers to witness the release and homecoming of Gilad Shalit October 19 8:00 AM

See Related: Gilad Shalit Agreement Archive



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Gilad Shalit in Egyptian hands – Shalit family sets out for IAF base in central Israel where they will see Gilad for the first time in more than five years

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Aviva Shalit, mother of Gilad Shalit who is returning to her arms on the 1,934th day of his imprisonment

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Shalit family en route to reunion with Gilad, Oct. 18, 2011
Photo By Yaron Kaminsky

Haaretz

The first stage of a prisoner exchange between Israel and Palestinian militant group Hamas was completed Tuesday morning, as part of a deal that will see the release of Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit after five years and four months in captivity in the Gaza Strip.

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The Shalit family leaves their Mitzpe Hila home en route to reunion with Giald, Oct. 18, 2011
Photo By Nir Kafri

All 477 prisoners to go free in the first stage have been transfered to the two locations – one on the Gaza border and another in the West Bank from where they will be handed over for transfer to Egypt and the West Bank. Gilad Shalit’s family was also heading for the Israel Air Force base at Tel Nof in the center of the country, where they will see him for the first time since his capture.

Israel is freeing 1,027 Palestinian and Israeli Arab prisoners in return for the soldier, who has been held in Gaza since his abduction in June 2006. The first wave of prisoners to be freed were escorted under heavy security by IDF and Prison Service guards to two locations depending on their ultimate destination.

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Palestinians in the Gaza Strip preparing for celebrations over the exchange of prisoners for IDF soldier Giald Shalit

As dawn broke, the first convoy of 96 prisoners from Ketziot prison arrived at Ofer jail, near the West Bank city of Ramallah, and a short time later another convoy of 147 prisoners also from Ketziot arrived at the Kerem Shalom crossing, where they were to be delivered to Gaza via Egypt.

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Members of the campaign to free Gilad Shalit begin preparing their celebrations
at his hometown of Mitzpe Hila, October 18, 2011
Photo By Gil Eliyahu

The prisoners will be taken off the buses and identified; at Kerem Shalom they will be transfered to Egyptian authorities to be taken to Gaza and at Ofer they were to be handed over to Red Cross officials.

RAW FOOTAGE

Under the terms of the deal between Israel and Hamas, some of those who are freed are not allowed to return to the Gaza Strip, and some will be deported to other countries.

See Related: San Francisco gathers to witness the release and homecoming of Gilad Shalit October 19 8:00 AM

See Related: Gilad Shalit Agreement Archive


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Palestinian prisoners leave Israeli jails as swap gets underway

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A convoy carrying Palestinian prisoners is seen as it leaves the Ketziot prison in southern Israel
October 18, 2011. Vehicles carrying Palestinian prisoners began departing from jails in Israel
on Tuesday, a Reuters witness said, setting in motion a phased prisoner exchange
that is meant to secure the release of abducted Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit
Reuters Photo ByRonen Zvulun

CNN.com

JERUSALEM — Palestinian inmates began leaving Israeli jails early Tuesday, setting in motion the historic swap that will trade more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners for one captured Israeli soldier.

A total of 477 prisoners were being moved to meeting points with the Red Cross, according to a spokeswoman at Israel’s Prison Authority.

Israeli radio reported that more than 1,000 police officers were deployed to ensure public order and the safety of the convoys, which headed to the Egyptian border.

PEOPLE GATHER AT SHALIT HOME

Late Monday, the Israeli Supreme Court rejected appeals against the release of prisoners in exchange for captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

Israel and Hamas approved the deal last week, agreeing to release in two stages 1,027 Palestinian prisoners, including hundreds serving life sentences for attacks on Israelis.

The second stage is scheduled to happen later this year.

Shalit has been held incommunicado by the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, which controls Gaza, since his seizure.

The Israeli public overwhelmingly supports the swap for Shalit, an Israeli army sergeant who was abducted in a raid in 2006, when he was 19 years old.

Israelis are equally split on whether “the release of terrorists” will harm Israeli security, with 50% saying “Yes” and 48% saying “No” — a statistical tie given the number of people polled.

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Armed Hamas members patrolled main roads in southern Gaza ahead of the prisoner exchange
Al Jazeera Photo

Gaza prepares to receive prisoners Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wrote to the families of terror victims to say he understood their pain.

Gilad Shalit to be freed “You were in my thoughts during the many uncertainties that have accompanied me in the negotiations,” he said in the letter, which was released by his office.

Outrage over prisoner exchange “The decision regarding the release of Gilad Shalit is one of the hardest I have taken … I understand the difficulty in digesting that these villains who committed these crimes against your loved ones will not be paying the full price that they deserve to,” Netanyahu wrote.

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But, he said: “The state of Israel does not abandon its soldiers and its citizens.”

Nearly eight out of 10 Israelis favor the deal, according to the poll of 500 people conducted by the Dahaf Polling Institute for the daily Yedioth Aharonoth.

The families of some Palestinian prisoners being released had mixed feelings about the swap, they told CNN.

Mohamad Abu Khalil, whose son Ayman got three life sentences plus 90 years in jail, is glad his son is being freed — but said he won’t be coming home.

“It’s better that Ayman is going to be released from Israeli jails, but sad that he won’t be around his family here. It’s better to be transferred to another country than being in Israeli jails,” his father said.

The official Israeli list of prisoner releases lists him as being sent “abroad,” rather than to Gaza or the West Bank, without specifying where.

The Israel Defense Forces declared a number of sites connected to the prisoner transfer and Shalit release to be closed military zones as of Monday.

The prisoners list released by Israel features 477 names, including those of Ahlam Tamimi, serving life terms for being an accomplice in the 2001 bombing of a Sbarro pizza restaurant, and Amneh Muna, who plotted the killing of a 16-year-old Israeli boy in 2001 and received a life sentence.

The most notable name not on the list is that of jailed Palestinian lawmaker Marwan Barghouti, who is serving five life sentences.

He was convicted in an Israeli court on murder and other charges related to his role in planning attacks on Israelis during the second Intifada.

Israel’s Prisons Authority said the Palestinians slated for release are being taken to two facilities — one for the 27 female prisoners on the list, the rest for the men — from which they will be released together.

Once freed, they will be under various restrictions on a case-by-case basis: Some will not be allowed to leave the country, while others will have other restrictions on their movement or be required to report their whereabouts to local police, Justice Ministry spokesman Moshe Cohen told CNN.

Shalit, meanwhile, will be transferred back into Israeli territory via the Kerem Shalom border crossing and will undergo medical tests and debriefing at an air force base, the Israeli military said.

Once that is complete, he will be flown to his home at Mitzpe Hila, north of Haifa.

CNN’s Guy Azriel, Kareem Khadder, Michal Zippori and Kevin Flower contributed to this report.

See Related: San Francisco gathers to witness the release and homecoming of Gilad Shalit October 19 8:00 AM


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San Francisco gathers to witness the release and homecoming of Gilad Shalit October 19 8:00 AM

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After five and a half years of being held by Hamas terrorists, the release of Gilad Shalit is expected Tuesday morning.

San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee, Israel’s Consul General Akiva Tor, and Deputy Consul General of France, Corinne Pereira, will gather with community leaders to watch the unfolding events via live feed from Israel. The program will include brief remarks by the dignitaries. The press is invited

The Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, as well as its Israel Center, the Consulate General of Israel, and the Jewish Community Relations Council are sponsoring this gathering.

WHEN: Tuesday, October 18, 2011, 8:00 am.

WHERE: The Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, 121 Steuart Street, San Francisco.

(Media RSVP required to Noga Zimerman: nzimerman@jcrc.org or 617-447-9994.)

See Related: Gilad Shalit to return to Israel within hours – High Court rejects bereaved families’ petitions

See Related: Gilad Shalit’s life more important than release of prisoners, President Shimon Peres emotes

See Related: Gilad Shalit Agreement Archive


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Gilad Shalit to return to Israel within hours – High Court rejects bereaved families’ petitions

High Court of Justice’s rejection of 4 separate petitions against the prisoner swap agreement between Israel and Hamas
effectively removes the last obstacle en route to the IDF soldier’s release

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Haaretz

The High Court of Justice rejected numerous petitions against the execution of the Gilad Shalit prisoner swap deal on Monday, effectively removing the last legal obstacle en route to the release of the abducted Israel Defense Forces solder.

Earlier Monday, Israelis opposed to the Shalit prisoner exchange deal asked the High Court to block the release of the jailed Palestinians in return for the captive soldier.

Four petitions were submitted to the court, filed by the Almagor Terror Victims Association and relatives of Israelis killed in Palestinian attacks. Judging from similar appeals in prisoner exchange deals in the past, however, the court is unlikely to intervene in what it considers a political and security issue.

In her verdict rejecting those petitions later Monday, Supreme Court President Dorit Beinish wrote that Monday’s High Court session was “one of the most loaded and unnerving debates to come before this court.”

“Undoubtedly, the government’s decision will send many terrorists who will be set free without serving their full sentence,” Beinish wrote, adding that most of those to be released were “vile murderers, whose hands are stained with blood of hundreds of victims, innocent civilians, women and children, old and young, that stumbled upon bombing scenes during the years in which Israel struggled against ferocious terror.”

However, the Supreme Court chief said, the “resolution of the issues raised in the case before us, one which involves security considerations, as well as moral and ethical matters, is in the hands of the elected government.”

“Now, perhaps more than ever, it is clear that these hours hold Gilad Shalit’s fate in the balance, and that any change in the agreement may thwart the execution of the deal and even risk Gilad’s life,” Beinish wrote, adding that under those circumstances the court found “that it was not for us to interfere with the government’s decision, which is why the petitions are rejected.”

During the hearing, Shvuel Schijveschuurder, a 27-year-old from Givat Shmuel who lost his parents and three of his siblings in the 2001 terror attack at the “Sbarro” restaurant in Jerusalem, yelled at Gilad Shalit’s father Noam, who came as to court as a defender.

Schijveschuurder – who last week vandalized Yitzhak Rabin’s Tel Aviv memorial in protest of the Shalit deal – shouted: “Hang a black flag over your home in Mitzpe Hila, this is a day of mourning.”

Bereaved family members disrupted the court session on numerous occasions, yelling out their objections to the deal, which is expected to get underway Tuesday morning.

Speaking following the court hearing, Schijveschuurder was beside himself with emotion, calling outside the courtroom: “If the government can’t carry out a ‘price tag’ I’ll carry it out myself.”

“We will not let the terrorists leave Israel’s borders. If the court can’t carry out a ‘price tag’ then I have the justification and the authority to seek that price tag, even from The Hague,” Schijveschuurder said.

Speaking after the court session, Noam Shalit said that his family’s hearts were “with the bereaved families today. We are also a bereaved family and we know that there are bereaved families who support the deal.”

“It’s a tough deal. We would have been happy if Gilad had been freed in other way, but unfortunately the State of Israel has not been able to create the kind of pressure that would bring about his release,” he added.

“I regret the fact that the bereaved families were not with us when we were trying to pressure the Israeli government and Hamas, and top stop the trucks of money and goods [making their way into Gaza],” Gilad’s father said, adding: “Not implementing the deal will not return the murdered loved ones, and, on the other hand, would sentence Gilad to death.

“Any delay, any displacement of a single detail in the deal, could seal his fate,” Shalit said.

Prior to Monday’s court hearing, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent a letter to hundreds of families of terror victims.

In his letter, Netanyahu expressed understanding and empathy for the families, but stated that he is “faced with the responsibility of the Prime Minister of Israel to bring home every soldier who is sent to protect our citizens.”

See Related: Gilad Shalit’s life more important than release of prisoners, President Shimon Peres emotes

See Related: Gilad Shalit Agreement Archive


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Gay is Good, Dr. Frank Kameny – On Scene with Bill Wilson

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Frank Kameny was the first openly gay person to run for Congress
when he ran for non-voting delegate from the District of Columbia in 1971.
Photo by Kay Tobin Lahusen, NYPL Digital Library

By Bill Wilson
Sentinel Photojournalist
Bill Wilson © 2011

“If society and I differ on something, I’m willing to give the matter a second look. If we still differ, then I am right and society is wrong; and society can go its way so long as it doesn’t get in my way. But if it does, there is going to be a fight. And I’m not going to be the one who backs down. That has been the underlying premise of the conduct of my life.” Frank Kameny as quoted in the book, The Gay Crusaders by Kay Tobin and Randy Wicker 1972.

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Frank Kameny (second in line) picketing in front of the White House in 1965
Photo by Kay Tobin Lahusen, NYPL Digital Library

Frank remained true to that premise right up to his death on National Coming Out Day, October 11, 2011. He never backed down. Whether he was writing an appeal to the Supreme Court in 1961, coining the slogan “Gay is Good” in 1968, zapping the American Psychiatric Association meetings in the early 70’s or speaking before a gay group the message was the same – I deserve to be treated equally, it is wrong to treat me any other way, and if you do then shame on you.

Frank Kameny was asked during an interview that was published in the MetroWeekly on October 5, 2006, why he wasn’t intimidated when he was fired from his government job in 1957. He answered, “ Over the years and the issues I’ve taken on, I have not sought to adjust myself to society. I have adjusted society to me and society is much better off for the adjustments I’ve administered.”

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Frank Kameny on the picket line in 1965 at Independence Hall,
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Photo by Kay Tobin Lahusen, NYPL Digital Library

I’ve always admired Frank for that absolute, unwavering conviction that has inspired so much and is the foundation for the gay rights movement. Homosexuality is no longer listed as a mental disorder. Why? Because Frank fought to get it removed and he won. In a July 8, 2006 letter to the Rainbow History project Dr. Kameny recalled the campaign to get the definition removed from the Diagnostic manual of the APA. “After the Mattachine Society of Washington (MSW) was organized in November, 1961, and we began to assess the issues facing us, we realized at once that we had to deal with the “sickness theory” of homosexuality, as formalized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM — then DSM II) of the American Psychiatric Association (APA), Our push then, as ever since, was for equality, and it was clear that equality would never be granted to a bunch of “loonies”, which is what the sickness theory made of us.

I had no idea of the scientific basis for the sickness theory, but, as a scientist by training and background, who knows good science and bad science when he sees them, I commenced to explore not knowing where I would come out..

I was appalled by what I found: Shabby, shoddy, sloppy, sleazy pseudo-science. Moral, cultural, and theological value judgments, cloaked and camouflaged in the language of science without any of the substance of science. Abominable sampling techniques: As psychiatrists, they only saw patients who, of course, were troubled people or they would not have been coming to a psychiatrist, so the psychiatrists never saw happy, well-adjusted homosexuals and assumed that we were all emotionally disturbed.

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Barbara Gittings(left) and Frank Kameny (right) staff a booth
at the 1972 APA Convention
Photo by Kay Tobin Lahusen, NYPL Digital Library

Assumptions, plugged in at one end, only to be drawn out at the other end, unexamined. Dr. Irving Bieber, in his 1962 book, states, on page 18: “All psychoanalytic theory assumes that homosexuality is psychopathological” —- a perfectly legitimate starting point, provided that that assumption is examined and validated; Bieber never did or even attempted to…

Therefore I drafted the MSW statement, “ The Mattachine Society of Washington takes the position that in the absence of valid evidence to the contrary homosexuality is not a sickness, disturbance, or other pathology in any sense but is merely a preference, orientation, or propensity on a par with and not different in kind from heterosexuality. The key clause in that is the opening subtantive one “In the absence of valid evidence to the contrary — “. What that did was to shift — to reverse — the burden of proof. from us to the sickness theorists, to provide that valid evidence.

In the entire ensuing decade they never did; they never even attempted to shoulder their burden. At the very meeting of the APA Board of Trustees, on December 15, 1973, at which they were in process of voting on the motion to delete Homosexuality from the DSM, three of the major sickness-theory bigwigs presented papers to the Board attempting to dissuade them. Those papers did not even touch on validating the theory; for them it remained a “given” not requiring evidence or proof. And so the Board went ahead to “cure” all gay people, en masse.

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Barbara Gittings, Dr. Frank Kameny and Dr. Anonymous part
of a 1972 panel at the APA meeting in Dallas
Photo by Kay Tobin Lahusen, NYPL Digital Library

In the first half decade or so after the issuance of the MSW statement, we saw no way to get at the issue within the APA, and we were deeply occupied with other issues. Following Stonewall, the effort was picked up in New York, with the welcome cooperation of Dr. Robert Spitzer who edited the DSM. A not-too-well thought out zap of the San Francisco APA meeting in May, 1970, by the Gay Liberation Front, and some other similar disruptions, got things moving within APA officialdom, leading to the invitation to me to organize the panel at the May, 1971 Washington, DC meeting; to our zap; to the famous panel discussion with the masked Dr. Fryer at the 1972 meeting in Dallas with our “Gay, Proud, and Healthy” booth created by Barbara Gittings and my leaflet of the same title, and my dancing with another gay man at the APA banquet; to the huge seminar on the “sickness theory” at the 1973 meeting in Honolulu, during which Bob Spitzer, Ron Gold, and I, sitting in a nearby gay bar, surrounded by frightened, closeted gay psychiatrists drafted two resolutions, one, the “curative” one and the other designed to eliminate homosexuality as a disqualifying factor in security clearance cases, both of which were adopted by the Board of Trustees that December. ..

The APA now has a formally-recognized Gay and Lesbian Caucus, consisting of very “out” gay psychiatrists…. Progress indeed, and well worth the effort!! Much of that enormous progress and the advances which the gay community has enjoyed over the past three decades just simply would not have occurred had we remained a bunch of “loonies”.”

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Frank Kameny and his supporters rally during his campaign for Congress in 1971
Photo by Kay Tobin Lahusen, NYPL Digital Library

In 1968 inspired by the “Black is Beautiful” slogan that sought to make black women feel positive about themselves, Frank coined the phrase, “Gay is Good” to make gay people feel good about themselves. He considered that the accomplishment his greatest. While I agree with his assessment he did leave us with many other accomplishments to consider.

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In a 1970 photo Frank Kameny holds a sign
bearing the slogan he created
Photo by Kay Tobin Lahusen, NYPL Digital Library

Although not a lawyer, he filed an appeal of his 1957 dismissal from his government job with the Supreme Court in 1961. He felt it was necessary even when his lawyer didn’t. He became an expert on Civil Service law and process. He advised many people, both federal employees and military personnel, on the way to deal with coming out. It was Frank that Leonard Matlovich turned to when making his decisions about how to come out and remain in the military.

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Frank is stopped by a guard at the White House Gate
during a protest at the White House in 1965
Photo by Kay Tobin Lahusen, NYPL Digital Library

Perhaps there is o better illustration of the progress that has been made in the years since Frank founded the Mattachine Society in DC sixty one years ago than the series of photos of Frank at the White House. There are many photos of Frank and others picketing the White House in the 60’s. One taken in 1965 shows Frank handing a letter for the President (then LBJ) to the guard at the Gate.

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Frank Kameny addresses a rally in 1993 protesting the DADT policy
Photo By Bill Wilson © 2011

Almost thirty years later with increased visibility the GLBT community had access to the Clinton White House, but Frank was still taking part in demonstrations in front of the White House as shown in a photo I took during a protest over the enactment of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. Frank was never the one to advocate or accept compromise when it came to equality.

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Frank receives a handshake from President Obama
in the Oval Office on June 17, 2009
White House Photo Pete Souza

President Obama has recognized Frank with invitations to receptions and bill signings. In the early days of strategizing about the gay rights movement Frank outlined three things he wanted to accomplish. The removal of the bar to gay and lesbian federal employment, the labeling of gays as security risks and the end of excluding gay and lesbians from military service. The certification of the repeal of DADT that went into effect on September 20 of this year completed the achievement of all those goals.

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Frank Kameny and John McNeil take part in wreath laying
ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
in Arlington Cemetery, Arlington, Va. in 2002
Photo by Henry Huot

Frank Kameny was a combat veteran of World War II. There was an attempt to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown solider n 1979 that failed because the person hadn’t gone through proper channels. Frank took charge and every year since 1980 there has been a gay group sponsored wreath laid at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The Army did have to be threaten with legal action before they understood Frank’s seriousness, but Frank’s military service gave credence to the effort.

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Frank Kameny reacting to President Obama recognizing Frank
during remarks at a LGBT Pride reception at the White House
on June 29, 2009.
White House photo

It was ironic that Frank passed away on National coming Out Day. Frank built the foundation which makes coming out possible. Like other civil rights leaders Frank called on America to live up to its promise of freedom and liberty for all its citizens. The world has lost his wise counsel, but we will always have his example. Out, proud, and it is society that needs changing.

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BILL WILSON
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 wfwilson@sbcglobal.net.

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PG&E reminds customers to prepare for natural disasters on anniversary of Loma Prieta Earthquake

loma-prieta

SAN FRANCISCO – More than two decades after the Loma Prieta earthquake rattled the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond, Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) reminds customers of the importance of preparing for natural disasters.

When an earthquake or other natural disaster occurs, natural gas and electric service can be interrupted. PG&E employees routinely practice their emergency roles and responsibilities to prepare for natural disasters, and the utility also provides emergency preparedness information for customers online at www.pge.com/safetycentral.
The following earthquake preparedness tips can help keep customers and their families safe and protected:

Before:

•Prepare: Have an emergency plan ready and conduct drills with your family. Make sure children, childcare providers and other family members know your safety procedures.

•Stock-up: Have emergency supplies on hand such as a portable radio with extra batteries, flashlights with fresh batteries, bottled water, a first aid kit, blankets, food, alternative cooking fuel, a minimum two week supply of needed medications, and extra crescent or pipe-type wrenches for turning off gas and water mains if necessary.

•Educate: Know how and when to turn off electricity, water and gas at the main switch and valves. Securely anchor water heaters and other heavy appliances. Secure tall, heavy furniture that could topple. Always store flammable liquids safely away from ignition sources like water heaters, furnaces or stoves.

•Anticipate: Know the safe spots in each room, like under a sturdy desk or table. Remember to stay away from windows, mirrors, hanging objects and fireplaces.
During:

•If you are indoors, stay inside. Get under a sturdy desk or table.

•If you are cooking in the kitchen, turn off the stove and other appliances if it is possible to do so safely before you take cover.

•If you are outdoors, get into the open, away from buildings, trees, walls and power lines. Be alert for falling debris.

•If you are driving, pull to the side of the road and stop. Do not park under overpasses, power lines, light posts, trees or signs. Stay in your car until the earthquake is over.

After:

•Check for injuries and ensure that everyone is safe.

•Check for damage. If you smell or hear escaping gas, get everyone outside. Find a phone away from the building to call 911 and PG&E (1-800-743-5000) immediately.

•If you smell or hear gas escaping, and are able to do so safely, shut off the gas at the main gas service shutoff valve using a 12 to 15 inch adjustable pipe or crescent-type wrench or other suitable tool. The valve is normally located near your gas meter. Do not shut off the valve unless you smell or hear gas escaping.

•Once you shut-off the gas, DO NOT turn it back on. If the gas service shutoff valve is closed, contact PG&E or another qualified professional to perform a safety inspection before the gas service is restored and the appliance pilots are lit.

•If you suspect a gas leak, do not use electrical switches, appliances or telephones, because sparks can ignite gas from broken lines. Do not check for a gas leak with a match or an open flame.

•If the power goes out, unplug major appliances to prevent possible damage when the power is turned back on.

•Plan evacuation routes from places where tsunamis present a risk to you and your family (home, school, workplace). If possible, pick areas 100 feet above sea level or two miles inland. You should be able to reach your safe location on foot within 15 minutes.

After a major earthquake, outside help may not be available for at least three days. PG&E urges customers to prepare and learn how to respond during and after an earthquake. Useful emergency preparedness information can be found at the following websites: The American Red Cross, the California Office of Emergency Services, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Earthquake Country Alliance.

Pacific Gas and Electric Company, a subsidiary of PG&E Corporation (NYSE:PCG), is one of the largest combined natural gas and electric utilities in the United States. Based in San Francisco, with 20,000 employees, the company delivers some of the nation’s cleanest energy to 15 million people in Northern and Central California.

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Banks protests move to San Francisco Union Square October 18

The organizers stress that the event will only be taking place in Union Square and that there will be no marching outside of the area, as stated by SF Rec & Park’s permit guidelines.

Tuesday, Oct 18th
Union Square, Geary and Powell
5:30 to 6:30 p.m.

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Star Trek star Zachary Quinto announces he’s gay

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Zachary Quinto

ABCNews.com

Zachary Quinto, best known for starring on the TV series “Heroes” and as Spock in the most recent “Star Trek” movie, has come out as gay in an interview with New York magazine.

Quinto, who recently wrapped an eight-month stint in an Off Broadway restaging of Tony Kushner’s Pulitzer prize winning play “Angels in America,” discussed one of the play’s main topics, the AIDS epidemic n the 1980s, and how he feels lucky to not have witnessed it firsthand.

“As a gay man, [the play] made me feel like there’s still so much work to be done, and there’s still so many things that need to be looked at and addressed,” Quinto said in the interview.

Though Quinto, 34, has never formally addressed his sexuality in the press, there has been much speculation across the Internet since he rose to fame as the villainous Sylar on “Heroes” and in 2009′s “Star Trek” reboot.

Though his filmography lists a diverse array of roles, he has portrayed several gay characters on television shows like Tori Spelling’s short-lived “So NoTORIous” and on the new FX series “American Horror Story.”

In the interview Quinto discusses how he feels living in a word where in the same summer New York State can pass a law legalizing gay marriage and 14-year-old gay high school student Jamey Rodemeyer is bullied to death.

“Again, as a gay man I look at that and say there’s a hopelessness that surrounds it, but as a human being I look at it and say ‘Why? Where’s this disparity coming from, and why can’t we as a culture and society dig deeper to examine that?’ We’re terrified of facing ourselves,” Quinto said.

After the story hit the Internet, Quinto posted on his website a message discussing Rodemeyer and his decision to publicly acknowledge his sexuality:

‘In light of Jamey’s death — it became clear to me in an instant that living a gay life without publicly acknowledging it — is simply not enough to make any significant contribution to the immense work that lies ahead on the road to complete equality.”

HUSH BABY, WHO KNEW?

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Ban on city contractor donations proves cumbersome to San Francisco mayoral hopefuls

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San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee
Special to The Chronicle Photo By Sarah Rice

John Coté
Chronicle Staff Writer
The San Francisco Chronicle

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee received five apparently illegal campaign contributions from parties with city contracts he approved, including four subcontractors on a $150 million contract to an engineering design firm working on some of the city’s biggest infrastructure projects, campaign finance records show.

He’s not the only one.

At least eight candidates vying to be elected mayor on Nov. 8 have received donations that appear to violate the city’s restrictions on contributions by contractors, a Chronicle analysis of campaign finance records shows.

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Critics of Occupy Movement attempt to neutralize by painting it anti-Semtic

Some far-right conservatives are labelling the Occupy Wall Street protesters as ‘anti-Semitic’
based on an anti-Semitic assumption that Jews run Wall Street and the global banking system

By MJ Rosenberg
Al Jazeera

An ugly old tradition is back: Exploiting anti-Semitism to break the backs of popular movements that threaten the power of the wealthiest one per cent of our population. It is being used to undermine the Occupy Wall Street movement, which has conservatives in a state of near panic.

I don’t know the first time the tactic was used, although it dates back almost to the beginning of the Jewish diaspora.

Perhaps its most famous use was by the viciously anti-Semitic Czar Nicholas, whose supporters concocted the Protocols of the Elders of Zion at the start of the 20th century to prevent Russians from joining socialist movements and other reform efforts that were fighting to get the czar to cede some power to an elected parliament.

The Protocols were a forged document purporting to show that a cabal of Jews met regularly to solidify their supposed control of the entire world. According to the Protocols, Jews were behind socialist and liberal movements but also ran the banks and Wall Street (A modern version of this ridiculous theme was a staple on Glenn Beck’s television programme that ran on Fox News until being cancelled this summer).

The Protocols have had a long life, used by the czar, the Nazis, and even today by extremist and fringe Muslim groups opposed to the existence of Israel.

Dangerous goals

But they were primarily used not so much against the Jews as against reform and revolution. Linking a progressive movement to the Jews would destroy progressive movements and preserve the power of those in control.

Perhaps not surprisingly, a bizarre variant of this phenomenon is now being deployed against Occupy Wall Street.

Because utilising anti-Semitism directly would not succeed in this country today, the reactionary defenders of the economic status quo are using the flip side of the coin: The fear of being labeled anti-Semitic. They are accusing Occupy Wall Street of anti-Semitism, relying on the old myth that Wall Street is Jewish and hence that opposition to Wall Street’s agenda is just opposition to Jews.

Not surprisingly, the first right-wing commentator to use this formulation in the Obama era was Rush Limbaugh. In 2010, Limbaugh told his radio audience that Jews might be having “buyer’s remorse” about having voted for President Barack Obama because “[h]e’s assaulting bankers. He’s assaulting money people. And a lot of those people on Wall Street are Jewish.”

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) condemned those remarks, labelling them a “new low” for Limbaugh. ADL National Director Abe Foxman explained that Limbaugh’s references to “Jews and money” were “offensive and inappropriate”.

Foxman continued: “While the age-old stereotype about Jews and money has a long and sordid history, it also remains one of the main pillars of anti-Semitism and is widely accepted by many Americans.”

Age-old stereotypes

And now the “age-old stereotype” is back, flipped on its head by right-wingers who seek to discredit Occupy Wall Street by accusing it of anti-Semitism, an accusation based on the idea, as Foxman said, “widely accepted by many Americans”, that Wall Street is Jewish.

One of the first conservatives after Limbaugh to use this tactic was the usually quite proper Ivy League conservative, New York Times columnist David Brooks. In an October 10 column dismissing the Wall Street protests as “trivial sideshows”, Brooks wrote:

“Take the Occupy Wall Street movement. This uprising was sparked by the magazine Adbusters, previously best known for the 2004 essay, ‘Why Won’t Anyone Say They Are Jewish?’ – an investigative report that identified some of the most influential Jews in America and their nefarious grip on policy.”

Interesting. Brooks essentially is charging that a magazine few have heard of “sparked” the movement and, even worse, smearing the movement as anti-Semitic by bringing up an article that magazine published seven years ago about the Jewish “grip” on policy. Quite a reach.

And then yesterday the Emergency Committee For Israel, a far-right Republican group run by Bill Kristol, issued a video flat-out accusing Occupy Wall Street of anti-Semitism, with side swipes at leading Democrats (what a coincidence!) like President Obama and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who have sympathised with the movement and are therefore, by implication, probably anti-Semitic themselves.

The Emergency Committee’s evidence is presented in the video above, which shows three anti-Semites and two anti-Semitic signs among the protesters. That’s it, out of a crowd of thousands. (Far be it from me to guess at the number of anti-Semites who might be at a Tea Party event, but they don’t define that movement either. Mass movements attract all kinds of people, some invariably unsavoury.)

In any case, the Emergency Committee for Israel is not concerned about anti-Semitism or Israel. It is, rather, dedicated to defeating Democrats and promoting its billionaire donors’ economic interests. During the 2010 congressional campaigns, it produced videos almost as deceitful as the Wall Street video that lied about Democratic candidates. It used Israel and Jews as devices to direct money and votes toward the Republicans.

In attacking Occupy Wall Street, the Emergency Committee’s goal is simply to smear Democrats. If, in the process, it reinforces the stereotype that Jews and Wall Street are interchangeable, so what? How different is that from its usual practice of suggesting strongly that American Jews should vote only based on Israel’s supposed interests, not America’s? To put it not-so-mildly, the Emergency Committee for Israel does not care about fuelling anti-Semitism in America.

Because that last video of a couple of anti-Semites may have left a bad taste in your mouth, here’s another one. It was shot at the Wall Street demonstration on Yom Kippur Eve and it features not a few anti-Semites but thousands of Jews celebrating the holiest day of the Jewish year, a day dedicated to the same ideals as Occupy Wall Street: Repentance for putting our desires before the needs of the poor, the homeless, and the exploited.

In this video, Occupy Wall Street is repenting for greed. Wall Street itself is silent.

MJ Rosenberg is a Senior Foreign Policy Fellow at the Media Matters Action Network.

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California diminished by tax revolt of 1978 shows how U.S. invites decline

tax-revolt

By Christopher Palmeri
Bloomberg.com

California voters approved Proposition 13 to rein in property taxes that had doubled in 10 years. More than three decades later, that rebellion has mortgaged the state’s future, saddling it with the nation’s highest debt and lowest credit rating.

The measure led to reductions that dropped per-student school spending from seventh to 29th nationally, prompted cities to pursue sprawling retail development to compensate for lost revenue, and pushed the state into budget gridlock, including a $705 million revenue shortfall announced Oct. 10, by requiring two-thirds approval for any tax increase.

“Proposition 13 set up an unfair and dysfunctional two- tiered system of property taxes,” said Kevin Starr, a history professor at the University of Southern California and the author of a series of books on the state. “It choked off a source of revenue, and the lack of that revenue has brought California to the edge.”

The measure, approved in 1978, was the inspiration for an antitax movement that has taken hold of the public discourse in Washington and in state legislatures throughout the country. It caps real estate levies at 1 percent of a property’s most-recent sale price. Before it passed, local governments could raise revenue as they saw fit.

Spread to Washington

In July, antitax fervor fed by the Tea Party movement led Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives to dig in against any increase in the nation’s debt ceiling that included raising taxes. The compromise that resulted threatens automatic spending cuts across the government if a congressional supercommittee can’t agree on ways to cut the federal deficit by more than $1 trillion.

In his 1990 autobiography, “An American Life,” former President Ronald Reagan called Proposition 13 “a prairie fire” sweeping the nation. In just the past two years, New York and New Jersey enacted laws inspired by it. At least 20 states now have some sort of property-tax cap, according to the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, a Cambridge, Massachusetts, foundation that researches property issues.

In California, where Proposition 13’s tax ceiling has long shaped public policy, the effect of that movement is clear.

Universities Cut

In addition to the effect on elementary schools, the most- populous state cut support for its public universities by 18 percent to $4.5 billion this year, according to the California finance department. The world’s ninth-largest economy’s general- fund backed debt has risen to $82.6 billion from $2.25 billion in 1978, state figures show. California carries more debt than any other state and ranks eighth on a per-capita basis, with $2,542 for each resident, Moody’s Investors Service has said.

Proposition 13 created disparities in tax payments that amaze Larry Stone, the assessor in Santa Clara County, home to Silicon Valley and companies such as Apple Inc. (AAPL) and Intel Corp. (INTC) Stone’s new neighbor in Sunnyvale will pay almost $18,000 in annual taxes and special assessments compared with the $3,000 Stone pays for the house he bought in 1975.

“You couldn’t invent a crazier system,” Stone said in a telephone interview.

The measure also created loopholes that businesses exploit to avoid paying their fair share, says San Francisco Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, a 69-year-old Democrat who has sponsored legislation to tighten rules on business-property transfers.

Dell’s Deal

For instance, billionaire Michael Dell structured the 2006 purchase of an ocean-view hotel in Santa Monica, a Los Angeles suburb, to avoid the automatic tax increase that comes with acquisition of more than a 50 percent interest in any property, Los Angeles County officials said in a statement filed in court.

The founder of Texas computer maker Dell Inc. (DELL) and his wife, Susan, bought shares in Ocean Avenue LLC, the corporation that owns the 302-room Fairmont Miramar hotel. They did it through a partnership, a limited liability corporation and a trust, none of which bought more than half of the hotel’s stock.

“This is emblematic of the cavalier way people try to skirt the law,” Ammiano said. “If you’re looking at a school that has to lay off teachers, if you care about elder care, money like this could make a real difference.”

The Los Angeles County Assessment Appeals Board ruled last year that the hotel had changed hands and the property’s value could rise to its $200 million purchase price from the previous assessed value of $85 million — that corresponds to an annual tax increase of about $1.3 million. Ocean Avenue is suing in state court to reverse the decision, while paying higher taxes as it pursues the matter. Todd Fogarty, a spokesman for Dell’s private investment firm, MSD Capital LP, declined to comment on the entrepreneur’s behalf.

Ballot Action

Proposition 13’s success had another effect as well: It inspired an explosion of ballot measures, from carving out part of the budget for schools to legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes. Since 1978, the state has amended its constitution through initiatives 69 times, compared with 47 times in the previous 65 years, according to the Secretary of State.

That trend spread to other states such as Colorado, where voters in November will decide whether they want to raise income and sales taxes to fund schools where per-pupil funding ranked 39th in the U.S. in 2009, according to Census Bureau figures.

“It’s had a profound impact on multiple levels,” said Jean Ross, executive director of the California Budget Project, a nonpartisan research group in Sacramento. “The one that’s underestimated is the shift in decision-making from the local level to the state. All of our public systems have been affected by our seemingly perpetual budget crises.”

Demands for Change

In the years since antitax crusader Howard Jarvis led the Proposition 13 campaign, demands for changes to the law have become more vocal, if not more likely to succeed.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, 58, like Assemblyman Ammiano, advocates creation of a “split roll” that lets levies on commercial properties rise more quickly than those for residences, so that business owners pay more.

“Prop. 13 has had the unintended effect of favoring commercial property owners at the expense of homeowners,” Villaraigosa said Aug. 16 at the Sacramento Press Club. “Let’s apply Prop. 13’s protections to homeowners and homeowners alone.”

Yet the measure remains popular for both businesses and homeowners. In a Sept. 23 Field Poll, 63 percent of California voters said they would support the measure if it were up for a vote again now. As for the split roll idea, Democrats endorsed it 53 percent to 37 percent, while Republicans opposed it 70 percent to 23 percent.

Businesses Benefit

It’s one of the initiative’s ironies that business people, who opposed the measure in 1978, have become its biggest beneficiaries. In Los Angeles County, where a quarter of the state’s $4.38 trillion in assessed property value is located, commercial and apartment buildings represented 60 percent of the tax rolls in 1975, while single-family homes accounted for 40 percent. Today that ratio is almost reversed.

In the late 1970s, tax-strapped homeowners were the driving force behind Proposition 13. Jarvis led five attempts to gather enough signatures to put the measure on the statewide ballot and finally succeeded, over the objections of Democrat Jerry Brown, 73, the governor then and now.

In the year after the measure passed, property-levy collections dropped 52 percent to $4.9 billion from $10.3 billion, according to the Board of Equalization, the state’s tax administrator.

Shifting Tax Base

Proposition 13 “effectively shifted the financing of portions of local government services and education from the property-tax base to the more volatile income- and sales-tax bases,” Standard & Poor’s said in a Sept. 8 report.

California has the 12th-highest sales tax rate in the country, with a combined state and local levy of 8.13 percent, according to the Tax Foundation, a non-partisan Washington-based research group. Its income tax collections placed it fifth in the nation in 2008, at $1,531 per capita.

Without the ability to boost local levies, Vallejo, a city of 116,000 in the San Francisco Bay area, in 2008 had to declare bankruptcy, the city’s former finance director, Robert Stout, told attendees at the Bond Buyer’s California Public Finance conference on Sept. 15. The process cost $12 million in legal bills and forced a one-third reduction in police staffing.

“I’ve worked for cities in Florida, New York and Connecticut,” Stout told the group. “We were always able to raise taxes.”

‘A Nightmare’

At the San Bernardino City Unified School District, the eighth-largest in the state with more than 50,600 students, revenue has fallen by $54 million, or more than 10 percent, in the past four years, as the state reduced funding. The district east of Los Angeles fired 68 educators, eliminated summer school and increased class sizes by a third, to average 30 students for each teacher.

“This is a nightmare,” said Mohammad Islam, San Bernardino’s assistant superintendent who has worked in school finance for 22 years. “It’s impossible what the state is doing to us.”

Lacking the ability to raise taxes locally, cities, counties and school districts have been forced to cut jobs, adding to California’s second-worst-in-the-nation 12.1 percent unemployment rate, according to John Husing, an economist specializing in the so-called Inland Empire east of Los Angeles.

Local governments in that area fired 12,600 employees, including teachers and firefighters, in August as nongovernment employers added 6,300 jobs, he said.

‘Government-Created Recession’

“What we now have is a government-created recession,” Husing said in a telephone interview. “It’s mostly school and local-government workers. It’s been a goddamn disaster for local governments to be put under the thumb of the Legislature.”

With property taxes capped, city officials have tried to find ways to keep as much as they can of what’s left locally, typically through redevelopment agencies, a 1945 creation designed to help cities improve blighted areas. The agencies advance city funds to developers, often from bond sales, which are paid back from the increased property assessments their projects generate.

Redevelopment agencies receive 12 percent of property taxes statewide, up from 4 percent in 1983, according to California’s Legislative Analyst’s Office. A March audit of 18 of the agencies by State Controller John Chiang found no consensus in how they defined a blighted area or in how they tracked job creation.

Fixed Shares

A formula worked out after Proposition 13 was passed also fixed cities’ share of revenue collections at their 1970s levels. That means the San Francisco Bay area city of Hercules, which had a low rate, collects only five cents of every dollar in property taxes paid while neighboring cities get as much as 25 percent, according to Liz Warmerdam, the former interim city manager. That encouraged the previous city manager to pursue development projects, particularly retail ones, to increase the city’s base, Warmerdam said in a telephone interview.

The city of 25,000 now has $130 million in debt, much of it spent on failed projects such as Sycamore North, a half-built shopping and residential center, and Big League Dreams, a softball stadium, Warmerdam said. Hercules sued its former city manager, Nelson Oliva, in August claiming he sent more than $3 million of city funds to a consulting firm his family owned. His attorney, Richard Ewaniszyk, said the city was aware of the relationship and that the family divested its stake.

Faced with a $6 million budget deficit this year, partly from $1.8 million in payments to the redevelopment agency, Hercules cut 40 people, or 30 percent of its workforce, and closed City Hall on Fridays.

Budget Logjam

Because Proposition 13 also requires a two-thirds majority in the state Assembly and Senate to pass any tax increase, legislators find themselves at constant loggerheads during budget negotiations.

Last October, then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a budget 100 days late. This year, Republicans blocked Brown’s efforts to extend previously enacted tax increases to help close a $25.4 billion projected deficit. Democrats, who control just under the two-thirds threshold in both legislative chambers, passed a budget on the last day of the fiscal year in June only by adjusting their revenue estimate upwards by $4 billion.

“The dysfunctional element here is that the minority party is in complete charge of all matters revenue-related,” state Senator Mark Leno, a San Francisco Democrat who leads the budget committee, said by telephone. “That is not democracy.”

Last Day

The battle over taxes continued until the last day of the legislative session in September. The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, a conservative group that carries on its founder’s tax-cutting mission, helped convince legislators to vote against a Brown proposal to raise $1 billion in taxes from businesses, mostly out-of-state companies, and redirect the money to local job-creation efforts.

The group released two statements objecting to the legislation and used its full-time lobbyist in Sacramento to buttonhole legislators. The association’s executive director, Jon Coupal, met one-on-one with Brown to voice his displeasure.

“He was trying to move a complicated tax-reform proposal forward and we were not in position to support it,” Coupal said in a telephone interview. The measure died in the Legislature.

Meanwhile, disparities in property taxes linger. Take the case of Roy Sakioka, a former sharecropper who spent time in a World War II internment camp before becoming one of the largest landowners in Southern California. He left a fortune estimated at $325 million when he died in 1995. Among his purchases: a three-story office building in Beverly Hills assessed for taxes at $1.5 million and worth as much as 17-fold more today.

Tax Disparities

The building’s owner, Sakioka Farms, pays $17,000 a year in taxes, according to Los Angeles County assessors’ records. A building behind it with a third of the square footage and half the land is assessed at $7 million and pays $72,000 in taxes annually. That’s because the Sakioka building was purchased decades ago, while the one behind it changed hands in 2009, so the smaller structure has a more recent valuation.

Harvey Englander, a Los Angeles political consultant who worked with Jarvis for two years after Proposition 13 passed, said the man who led one of the nation’s most famous tax revolts would support changing the terms today.

“H.J.’s goal was property-tax relief for homeowners or renters,” Englander, a Democrat, said in an interview. “He didn’t love big corporations. He said, ‘Someday Prop. 13 will need to be updated.’”

Raising Business Rate

Englander suggests raising the rate business pay, to 1.5 percent, from one percent. “What people want is certainty,” he said. “They want to know exactly how much they are going to pay.”

The Board of Equalization estimates that another approach, raising assessments on commercial property to current market value, would generate $2.5 billion more a year in taxes statewide, according to Anita Gore, a spokeswoman for the board.

All those changes are a nonstarter for Coupal, the Jarvis association director. Raising property taxes will only drive more businesses from the state, he said by telephone.

“The anti-Prop. 13 jihad hasn’t thought this out well,” he said.

Proposition 13’s supporters may not have much to worry about, as no statewide leaders are pressing for a major change.

‘Doesn’t Poll’

“It doesn’t poll well,” said Controller Chiang, a Democrat who had to hand out IOUs to creditors three years earlier, when legislators couldn’t agree on a budget.

What about just changing it for businesses, he was asked? Chiang shook his head no.

Brown also seems unlikely to take up Villaraigosa’s call to action on Proposition 13. When asked at a Sept. 1 event if he had any ideas for changing the measure, the governor said he didn’t.

“Nor have I found anyone else that has a plausible pathway,” he said.

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