Archive | Travel

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


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.


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.


Continue Reading: Stay, Ed, Stay

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Gilad Shalit reunited with his family




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.


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.


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”.


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”


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.

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.”

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.


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”.

shalit oct 18 14
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

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

By Anshel Pfeffer, Yaniv Kubovich

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.

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.

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.


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

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

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


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.

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.

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.

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.


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

palestine oct 18 2
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

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.


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.

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.


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

akiva gilad-oct-17-1 ed-lee-oct-17-2

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: 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



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

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.

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.”

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.

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.

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”.”

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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


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
The following earthquake preparedness tips can help keep customers and their families safe and protected:


•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.

•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.


•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.

See Related: Wells Fargo Bank profits rise 21%

See Related: American Distrust of Banks Archive

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Star Trek star Zachary Quinto announces he’s gay

Zachary Quinto

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.”


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

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.

See Related: American Distrust of Banks Archive

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


By Christopher Palmeri

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.

See Related: Economy Archive

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Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell repeal means new challenges – Their partners still denied benefits

Charlie Morgan attends the OutServe Armed Forces Leadership summit in Las Vegas,
October 15, 2011
Photo By Isaac Brekken

By Phil Willon
The Los Angeles Times

LAS VEGAS — The New Hampshire Army National Guard is holding a yellow ribbon seminar this week for soldiers returning from the Middle East to help them and their families adjust to life back home, but Chief Warrant Officer Charlie Morgan’s partner of 11 years isn’t welcome.

Morgan, a lesbian who returned from a deployment in Kuwait in August, said her partner is barred from the family support services, healthcare coverage and housing provided to non-gay spouses of service members. She can’t even shop at the base commissary.

That did not change with the historic repeal of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy Sept. 20. Such lingering inequities helped motivate Morgan and more than 150 other gay and lesbian active service members to descend on Las Vegas last weekend for the first national summit on military life in the post-”don’t ask, don’t tell”-era.

“I was so elated, so happy, when the repeal happened, but we still have a long ways to go,” said Morgan, 47, a personnel officer who has served in the military for 16 years.

The summit was hosted by Outserve, an association of gay and lesbian service members that until recently was an underground support organization born from a secret Facebook group. Started just over a year ago, Outserve has 48 chapters worldwide, has a membership of 4,500 and publishes a bimonthly magazine distributed on bases in the U.S. and abroad.

During the three-day event, officers debated the benefits and pitfalls of coming out to those under their command; the rank and file peppered mental health experts about the unique, unacknowledged stress that gay men and lesbians face on the front lines; and civil rights advocates offered a bleak outlook on ending the significant legal and political barriers that remain for married same-sex couples.

Merely having the conference, held in the convention hall at the bustling New York New York Casino and covered extensively by the national media, was a milestone. Navy captains attended alongside cadets from the Air Force Academy and soldiers just back from Iraq and Afghanistan, openly discussing their lives as gay men and lesbians in the military — conversations that only a year ago would have led to being discharged.

Outserve co-director Lt. Josh Seefried said the organization’s mission now is to erase remnants of discrimination and inequality and to accelerate the military’s acceptance of those dedicated to serving, no matter their sexual orientation.

“The problem in the military right now is that there is visible inequality being introduced,” Seefried said. “Under ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’ that inequality was invisible. You just had to kick someone out and you could ignore the problem.”

Straight and gay service members work side by side in Iraq, Afghanistan and all other military installations across the globe. Yet only straight service members receive a boost in pay if they’re married, and only they can request shared deployments if married to another service member.

“That’s a problem for unit cohesion in general,” said Seefried, a finance officer based in New Jersey. “When you treat people differently, that’s when the mission goes awry.”

In the first few weeks since the repeal, Outserve’s leadership said the response within the military had been overwhelmingly positive. Many at the conference spoke of taking their partners to military dinners for the first time, being greeted warmly by their commanders and colleagues when revealing their sexuality, and the simple pleasure of displaying framed pictures of partners.

Still, others who spoke at the conference, including veterans discharged under “don’t ask, don’t tell,” urged officers and enlisted personnel to make their presence known.

“Now’s the time for role models and leaders … to show that we wear the same uniform, we bleed the same color — red — we salute the same flag and we’re really no different from our counterparts,” said Michael Almy, an Air Force major discharged after another service member, without permission, searched his private email and reported him to the commander.

Michelle Benecke, co-founder of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, also took a not-so-subtle jab at Republican presidential candidates — who will arrive in Las Vegas for a debate Tuesday — vowing to reinstate “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

“If you can come out in the military, you can come out anywhere. The right wing’s worst fear are the people in this room,” Benecke, a former Army artillery officer, told conference members.

Under “don’t ask, don’t tell,” as long as gay men and lesbians kept their sexual orientation secret, they were allowed to serve. More than 14,000 service members were discharged during the 18 years the policy was enforced. Congress voted to rescind the policy last December; the change took effect last month.

Along with cultural challenges, significant legal issues remain for gay men and lesbians in the armed services. The federal Defense of Marriage Act prohibits the Pentagon from providing benefits to same-sex couples, further cemented by a separate federal law that defines a spouse as a “husband” or “wife” in a heterosexual marriage.

The absence of any official support for partners only compounds the stress gay and lesbian service members face when in combat or deployed away from home. Family and relationship problems on the home front are a greater cause of post-traumatic stress disorder — a catalyst for increased alcohol and drug abuse, suicide and other personal ills — than exposure to combat, said Capt. Scott Johnston, head of the Naval Center Combat and Operational Stress Control unit in San Diego.

“We’re asking these people to put their lives on the line, and we not going provide their partners with support? That doesn’t make sense,” said Johnston, one of many presenters at the conference.

Johnston is optimistic that the military will find a way to address the inequity, just as it did when African Americans and women were integrated into the ranks. In the meantime, he said, the partners of gay men and lesbians in the military must rely on private or community resources for counseling and other mental health needs.

Along with a brisk change in military culture, the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” has created an uneasy new reality for service members who had formed tight, secretive social bonds with other gay men and lesbians in the service.

They had turned to one another at times of heartache, such as the death of a partner, as well as for acceptance and intimacy. Fraternization among officers and enlisted personnel — a violation of the military code of conduct — was common, and rarely reported.

“A lot of the things that we did in order to survive, in order to find meaningful relationships, we compromised,” said John Fiorentine, a lieutenant commander in the U.S. Coast Guard based in Washington. “There was no greater sin in our community than a gay betraying the trust of the family. Just over a month ago, that dynamic changed. We have to rethink the whole scenario now of how we’ll handle that.”

Allowing gay men and lesbians to openly serve is also bringing about personal change. Steve, a captain based at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, is still in the closet but since the repeal has been telling his friends and fellow officers one by one. Next up, his parents.

“They’ll be coming out for a visit in a few weeks,” said Steve, who asked that his last name be withheld. “It’s time.”

See Related: Marriage Equality Archive

See Related: On Scene with Bill Wilson

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Gaza, West Bank prepare to Welcome Prisoners – Palestine Sings for Joy

Shahinaz, a sister of Palestinian female prisoner Fotnah Abo Aleish, holds a photo of Fotnah
as she celebrates the prisoner swap deal between Hamas and Israel, in her home
at the Askar refugee camp near the West Bank city of Nablus
Reuters Photo By Abed Omar Qusini

By Nidal al-Mughrabi
Ma’an News Agency

GAZA CITY — The last time Asma al-Kurd saw her father, she was 18 months old. That was 20 years ago, before he was sentenced to eight terms of life imprisonment for attacks that killed Israelis.

Baseem al-Kurd, now 43, is slated to be one of 477 Palestinians due to be exchanged on Tuesday for captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in a deal with Hamas, an Islamist group dedicated to Israel’s destruction.

“We have imagined many things we were deprived of doing and we will do with him when he is freed,” said the Hamas member’s 21-year-old daughter, dressed in traditional Islamic garb, her face covered by a veil.

Workers were putting the finishing touches to repairs of Kurd’s home, damaged in a recent Israeli air strike on a sports center belonging to the Islamic Jihad group after it fired rockets into Israel.

In Israel, the deal taking in dozens of Palestinians convicted of deadly attacks has been met with mixed emotions — joy at the end of Shalit’s five years of captivity and angst over the price paid for his release.

Kurd’s mother, Dalal, 65, watched as new lamps were installed in her son’s home in the Gaza Strip and its walls covered with a fresh coat of paint.

“We are preparing his house for him. We hope we can compensate him for all the deprivation he suffered,” she said.

“Prisoner and son”

Outside the dwelling, activists from Hamas’ Izz el-Deen al-Qassam Brigades painted slogans welcoming home its “prisoner and son”. Other graffiti praising Hamas sprouted on Gaza’s streets.

“Hamas had promised and it fulfilled its promise,” said one slogan near the site where a public rally is planned for the 295 prisoners due to be released to the Gaza Strip.

Hamas and Palestinian flags flutter from electrical poles.

Exile tempers celebrations

Happiness over news of the imminent mass release has been tempered in some families by news that their relatives were being sent into exile as part of the deal, and would not be allowed an emotional homecoming.

That means some of the West Bank detainees will be sent either to another Middle East country or to the Gaza Strip, a small Palestinian coastal enclave that is sealed off by Israeli forces and very hard to visit for outsiders.

Mousa Waswas, 29, who was sentenced to eight life terms for his part in the killing of eight Israelis, is one such Palestinian facing deportation.

His family comes from the West Bank city of Hebron and they have decorated the exterior walls of their home to celebrate his freedom, even if he won’t see them with his own eyes.

“If he goes to Turkey, Gaza or Egypt I will crawl to see him,” his mother, Khawla Waswas, told Reuters Television.

In a second stage of the Egyptian- and German-brokered swap, Israel is to free another 550 jailed Palestinians. No date has been announced for their release.

Shalit was captured in June 2006 by Palestinian militants who had tunneled into Israel from the Gaza Strip. He has been held in the Hamas -ruled territory ever since.



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

See Related: Coundown to Gilad Shalit Release – Operation Beit HaShoevash begins Tuesday Morning – Complete Day’s Schedule

See Related: Gilad Shalit Agreement Archive

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Coundown to Gilad Shalit Release – Operation Beit HaShoevash begins Tuesday Morning – Complete Day’s Schedule

Countdown to IDF officials will make initial contact with Gilad Shalit, and give green light for the immediate release of hundreds of prisoners.
Surrounding vicinity to be declared closed military area.


By Yoav Zitun

The IDF, Prison Service and police are completing last minute preparations ahead of the prisoner exchange deal that will see the release of captive soldier Gilad Shalit in return for 1,027 Palestinian prisoners.

According to the plan, Gilad’s first encounter with Israeli officials will take place in the Sinai Peninsula, after the kidnapped soldier will be transferred there from the Gaza Strip.

Operation Beit HaShoevah, named after the special celebration held during the intermediate days of Sukkot, will begin immediately after IDF officials make initial contact with Shalit in Sinai.

At that moment, Prison Service employees will release hundreds of prisoners, which will be divided in two main groups – some 100 prisoners will leave on Red Cross buses toward Ramallah, while a second, larger group, will be transferred to Gaza or deported abroad.

According to the plan, Shalit will be transferred from Sinai to a military base in the south, where he will undergo initial medical examinations. From there, an Air Force helicopter will take him to Tel Nof airbase in central Israel, where he will first reunite with his family.

In fact, the most critical moments of the operation are expected during the transfer of Shalit from Sinai to Israel via land. Only after his medical condition is verified, the IDF will make an official announcement regarding Shalit’s return to Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to hold short reception

Following a short reception attended by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, the family will deliver a statement to the press at a media tent erected at the entrance to the base.

From there Shalit will be flown to his home in Mitzpe Hila, where he will continue to be accompanied by military professionals.

The IDF Spokesperson’s office will take the first footage of Shalit in Tel Nof base and will hand it to media outlets in an orderly fashion. The IDF however is not ruling out the possibility that Shalit will be photographed by Hamas prior to his release on Tuesday morning.

During the operation, the surrounding vicinities will be declared a closed military area, and will be closed to the public. The operation will be commanded by Head of the IDF Operations Division Brigadier-General Kobi Barak, under the supervision of Chief of Staff Benny Gantz.


Phase 1: Shalit is released and met either by a representative of the International Red Cross or an Egyptian official on Tuesday morning.

Phase 2: Israel frees 27 Arab female prisoners on confirmation of Shalit’s release.

Phase 3: Hamas transfers Shalit to Egypt via the Rafah crossing. Shalit will spend a very short period of time in Egypt, possibly under 15 minutes, before overland transfer to Israel.

Phase 4: Israel releases the first wave of Palestinian prisoners to Gaza and the West Bank upon confirmation of the transfer.

Phase 5: Shalit is transferred to an Israel Defense Forces near Israel’s borders with Egypt and Gaza. He will be given his old cell phone in order to telephone his mother.

Phase 6: Shalit is expected to undergo initial medical check-ups conducted by IDF Chief Medical Officer Brigadier – General Itzik Kreis.

Phase 7: Shalit is transferred to Israel Air Force base at Tel Nof.

Phase 8: Shalit undergoes further medical examination on arrival at Tel Nof.

Phase 9: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz meet Shalit at Tel Nof.

Phase 10: Shalit is accompanied by Netanyahu, Barak and Gantz to be reunited with his family.

Phase 11: If Shalit is well and healthy, the IDF flies Shalit and his family to their home Mitzpe Hila in north Israel by helicopter.

The entire transfer is expected to be completed by Tuesday afternoon.



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

See Related: Gaza, West Bank prepare to Welcome Prisoners – Palestine Sings for Joy

See Related: Gilad Shalit Agreement Archive

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Tens of Thousands emerge for dedication of Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial

File Photo

Thousands of people spanning all ages and races honored the legacy of the nation’s foremost civil rights leader during Sunday’s formal dedication of the new Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington.

Aretha Franklin, poet Nikki Giovanni and President Barack Obama were among those who attended the more than four-hour ceremony. King’s children and other leaders spoke before the president, invoking his “I Have a Dream” speech and calling upon a new generation to help fully realize that dream.

Some in the crowd arrived as early as 5 a.m., and the crowd eventually overflowed beyond the park gates. Some women wore large Sunday hats for the occasion.

The president arrived late morning with his wife and two daughters, which drew loud cheers from those watching his entrance on large screens.

Cherry Hawkins traveled from Houston with her cousins and arrived at 6 a.m. to be part of the dedication. They postponed earlier plans to attend the August dedication, which was postponed because of Hurricane Irene.

“I wanted to do this for my kids and grandkids,” Hawkins said. She expects the memorial will be in their history books someday. “They can say, ‘Oh, my granny did that.’”

Hawkins, her cousin DeAndrea Cooper and Cooper’s daughter Brittani Jones, 23, visited the King Memorial on Saturday after joining a march with the Rev. Al Sharpton to urge Congress to pass a jobs bill.

“You see his face in the memorial, and it’s kind of an emotional moment,” Cooper said. “It’s beautiful. They did a wonderful job.”

A stage for speakers and thousands of folding chairs were set up on a field near the memorial along with large TV screens. Most of the 10,000 chairs set out appeared to be full. Many other people were standing.

The August ceremony had been expected to draw 250,000, though organizers anticipated about 50,000 for Sunday’s event.

Actress Cicely Tyson said her contemporaries are passing the torch to a new generation and passed the microphone to 12-year-old Amandla Stenberg. The girl recalled learning about the civil rights movement in school and named four young girls killed in a 1963 church bombing in Birmingham, Ala.

“As Dr. King said at their funeral, ‘They didn’t live long lives, but they lived meaningful lives,’” Amandla said. “I plan to live a meaningful life, too.”

About 1.5 million people are estimated to have visited the 30-foot-tall statue of King and the granite walls where 14 of his quotations are carved in stone. The memorial is the first on the National Mall honoring a black leader.

The sculpture of King with his arms crossed appears to emerge from a stone extracted from a mountain. It was carved by Chinese artist Lei Yixin. The design was inspired by a line from the famous “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963: “Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope.”

King’s “Dream” speech during the March on Washington galvanized the civil rights movement.

King’s older sister, Christine King Farris, said she witnessed a baby become “a great hero to humanity.” She said the memorial will ensure her brother’s legacy will provide a source of inspiration worldwide for generations.

To young people in the crowd, she said King’s message is that “Great dreams can come true and America is the place where you can make it happen.”

Bernice King and her brother Martin Luther King III said their father’s dream is not yet realized. Martin Luther King III said the nation has “lost its soul” when it tolerates vast economic disparities, teen bullying, and having more people of color in prison than in college.

He said the memorial should serve as a catalyst to renew his father’s fight for social and economic justice.

“The problem is the American dream of 50 years ago … has turned into a nightmare for millions of people” who have lost their jobs and homes, King said.

The choir from King’s historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta was scheduled to sing.

The nation’s first black president, who was just 6 years old when King was assassinated in April 1968 in Memphis, Tenn., will speak about the man he has said “gave his life serving others.”

Giovanni read her poem “In the Spirit of Martin,” and Franklin was to sing.

Early in the ceremony, during a rendition of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” the crowd cheered when images on screen showed Obama on the night he won the 2008 presidential election.

Obama, who credits King with paving his way to the White House, left a copy of his inaugural speech in a time capsule at the monument site. He said King was a man who “stirred our conscience” and made the Union “more perfect.”

But the Rev. Al Sharpton said the dedication was not about Obama but the ongoing fight for justice. He called for people from around the world to walk through the stone of hope and emerge to see “the face that brought us from the back of the bus to the White House.”

See Related: Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial joins an evolving National Mall

See Related: My meeting with Martin Luther King, Jr. an inspiration for LGBT Jews

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Hamas Official Osama Hamadan: Prisoner swap is a remarkable deal – Release of East Jerusalem residents and Israeli Arabs

Most prisoners due for release will return to their homes in the West Bank or the Gaza Strip
Reuters Photo


Palestinian terrorists due to be deported overseas as part of the Gilad Shalit prisoner swap deal will no doubt find their way back to Palestinian land, a top Hamas official said in an interview on Sunday.

In details released concerning a Israel-Hamas prisoner exchange agreement that would secure the release of the abducted Israel Defense Forces soldier, about half of prisoners released in the first stage of the deal, 203, will not be allowed to return to their homes. 40 will be deported abroad, with the rest transferred to the Gaza Strip.

An Egyptian official linked to talks geared at securing the release of the abducted Israel Defense Forces soldier told Haaretz that “Israel in fact agreed to release 40 of the 70 prisoners that it had adamantly refused to let go, after Hamas submitted an extensive list of heavyweight prisoners from which Israel would choose. And Hamas, for its part, agreed that those prisoners would be deported.”

However, speaking with Sir David Frost on Al-Jazeera later Sunday, top Hamas official and member of the group’s politburo Osama Hamdan indicated that those deported would not necessarily stay away from the region for ever.

Asked by Frost where the deported inmates would go, Hamdan said: “It’s their choice, and what had happened was, with the complete contact with them, I think they will live for a while outside Palestine, but that does not mean that they will not be in contact with their families, with their people.”

“We have to realize that hundreds of Palestinians were deported during the last four decades and at the end of the story was that every time they were back home,” the Hamas official said.

Hamdan also commented on the Shalit deal, which he considered to a Hamas achievement, saying: “It is a remarkable deal.”

“Part of that [are] the numbers,” the Hamas official said, adding that there were other “important points. There were people from Jerusalem who were released, which was not accepted by the Israelis for decades. There were [Israeli] Arabs who were released, which is something Israel tried prevent that; there were people you committed militant operations against the Israelis directly and they were also released.”

Hamdan was also asked about the possible changes Hamas had to make in its stance toward Israel, saying: “The Israelis must change, not the Palestinians.”

“The struggle for six decades [is] to implement Palestinian rights, to take back Palestinian land from the occupiers, which does not appear clear to the Israelis yet,” Hamdan said.

The comments by the Hamas strongman came after Hamas rejected the Palestinian Authority’s accusations earlier on Sunday that the deal to free Gilad Shalit in exchange for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners is insufficient since it does not include the release of many Fatah members.

Top Hamas official Mahmoud Zahar told Army Radio on Sunday that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas “negotiated with Israel for a million years and hasn’t achieved a deal like this one.”

Earlier on Sunday, Zahar told Al-Hayat newspaper that “throughout the negotiations, the Palestinian President offered that we release Shalit only in return for lifting the siege on Gaza and without releasing any [Palestinian] prisoners.” According to Zahar, Hamas vehemently objected to this idea, “and so the Palestinian Authority has no right to voice criticism about who is released and how.”

See Related: Gilad Shalit Agreement Archive

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Join Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today in phone banking for Chris Cunnie


SAN FRANCISCO – Today California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris will call San Francisco voters to urge them to vote for her choice for San Francisco Sheriff – Chris Cunnie.

The Attorney General will join other Cunnie volunteers today from 4:30 – 5:30 p.m. at 4308 Geary Street.

Pease join her and all our dedicated volunteers by signing up for a shift today to phone bank! People are already voting so it’s urgent that we let every voter know why Chris is the best candidate. Bring your friends and family with you!

SIGN UP: To sign up, contact Zach Chiapellone at or (415) 306-6841

DATE: Today, Sunday, 10/16


11:00AM – 2:00PM
2:00PM – 5:00PM
5:00PM – 8:00PM

With Election Day just three weeks away, volunteers for Chris Cunnie have been working the phones all weekend to reach out to San Francisco voters to tell them why the office of sheriff matters and why Chris Cunnie is the best candidate. Many San Franciscans are already voting through absentee ballots.

Attorney General Harris said:

“Chris Cunnie is the former undersheriff of San Francisco. He is the only candidate with extensive experience in both law enforcement AND treatment and education programs that help keep people out of the criminal justice system.

“Cunnie was a San Francisco police officer twice decorated for valor, president of the San Francisco Police Officers Association, Chief of investigations in the DA’s office and chairman of Walden House, one of the nation’s best treatment centers. Cunnie will bring all these experiences together to keep San Francisco safe.”

The weekend’s robust phone banking operations build upon the momentum of the Cunnie campaign. He has recently received the sole endorsement of the San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco Examiner and Sing Tao Daily.

To learn more about Chris Cunnie and view a complete list of supporters, please visit

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Is a winter of discontent on the way? – Banks protests go global, Middle East unrest stirs again

banks oct 16 2
A demonstrator holds a banner during a protest
at the Portuguese parliament as part of the
United for Global Change movement in Lisbon
October 15, 2011
Reuters Photo By Rafael Marchante

By Peter Apps
Political Risk Correspondent

LONDON – With the “Occupy Wall Street” movement going global and Middle East unrest stirring again, an autumn and winter of discontent looks increasingly likely.

In the corridors of Whitehall, Washington, think tanks and even investment banks, there are dark murmurs that the events of the year so far may only be the beginning.

banks oct 16 1
Occupy Boston protestors join an anti-war march
through Boston, Massachusetts October 15, 2011
Reuters Photo By Brian Snyder

Some fear the world faces a systemic rise in anger, protest and political volatility that could last years or even decades.

In many countries, a young social media-connected generation is losing faith in traditional structures of government and business, arguing it has been betrayed and denied opportunity.

In the developed world, the wider middle class fears its prosperity has evaporated, demanding someone be held accountable and the global elite find a way of delivering growth once more.

“This could be with us for a long time,” said Jack Goldstone, professor of public policy at George Mason University in Washington D.C. and an expert in demographics.

“You have a generation who are fed up being told what to do by rich western countries or rich western people. In Egypt, they took down one government but they may not like what replaces it and they may take that down too. It’s going to be a difficult period.”

In the Western world, the crisis initially produced rather less physical protest than many expected. But it now seems on the rise. Greece, Spain, Italy and Britain have all seen some of their worst unrest in decades.

On Saturday, the U.S. protests against the global financial system that began in a New York Park in mid-September spilled overseas to dozens of countries as sometimes hundreds, sometimes tens of thousands took to the streets.

Many were peaceful, but in Rome cars were torched and police fought running battles with “black bloc” activists. In London and several other cities, protesters in tents stayed on.


“Even a small number of protesters to start with can inspire many more to come along and join in,” said Tim Hardy, founder of left-wing blog “Beyond Clicktivism” and a regular attendee at London protests. “If they manage to establish a base camp, I expect numbers will swell.”

On Friday the Milan office of U.S. bank Goldman Sachs was attacked by an angry mob. Most protest has been peaceful, but is likely ramp up political pressure on the financial industry. Already, policymakers talk of tighter regulation and targeted tax rises and media attention is increasingly turning to the activities of tax havens and secretive banks.

“One word: accountability,” said Hayat Alvi, a professor teaching Middle Eastern and national security studies at the United States Naval War College.

“This is the season of demanding accountability and the application of the rule of law, especially targeting the ruling political elites and the economic elites as well.”

Britain’s August riots showed post-crisis unrest might not always be overtly political, with tough inner-city youths using social media platforms to co-ordinate looting and arson. With so much of the world in flux, some expect that kind of nihilistic violence to also rise.

As the summer heat eases in the Middle East, the region seems braced for more trouble.

Egyptian protesters who ousted Hosni Mubarak in February increasingly complain the military still rules, is effectively rigging coming elections and that little has genuinely changed.

Last week saw the worst clashes since Mubarak’s fall, primarily between the military and Coptic Christians. Many in Tunisia, the first state to oust its leader, make similar complaints.

Conflict and confrontation in Syria look to be worsening, with sporadic reports of defecting troops and others taking up arms against Bashar al-Assad. In Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and other countries, analysts see a risk of new protests in coming months.


A host of other dissident movements are showing increasing confidence. In Israel, India, Chile, China and elsewhere, online or street protesters have often managed to win concessions.

Some believe the current anger against autocrats, bankers and elites is a symptom of fundamental shifts in the structure of global populations.

In the Middle East and North Africa, one of the key drivers has been a large bulge in the youthful population struggling to find work. An educated, westernized group using social media tools to coordinate got protests started, quickly joined by broader masses angry at rising food prices.

In western states, there are strains caused by an aging population that is driving up government costs, reducing growth and blocking jobs from younger people.

At worst, some experts warn that could produce an economic malaise that lasts for decades.

“It is these demographic issues that are driving much of what we are seeing at the moment,” said George Mason University’s Goldstone.

“It makes politics very unpredictable. You can get paralysis, but you can also see dramatic shifts in policy to left or right. You can see the rise of ideologues as we saw in the 1930s. We are very much at the beginning of this.”

See Related: American Distrust of Banks Archive

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Israel begins prisoner transfer as part of deal to free Gilad Shalit

Hundreds of Palestinian prisoners including militants serving multiple life sentences moved to two jails in first phase
of exchange for captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit


By Harriet Sherwood
The Guardian

Israel began to transfer hundreds of Palestinian prisoners to two jails on Sunday before their release in the coming days as part of the deal struck with Hamas in exchange for the freeing of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

Palestinian prisoners transferred
ahead of the Gilad Shalit swap deal,
Oct. 16, 2011
Photo By Alon Ron

The names of 450 male prisoners and 27 female prisoners scheduled for release were published by the Israeli prison service on Saturday night. Among them are militants serving multiple life sentences for attacks in which Israeli civilians were killed and maimed. The oldest prisoner, Mohamed Hemad, was arrested 35 years ago.

Israelis who want to challenge the release of individuals have until the end of Monday to lodge objections at the high court of justice. However, the court is not expected to intervene following the approval of the deal by a large majority in the cabinet and its widespread public support.

Shalit was captured in June 2006 by Palestinian militants who tunnelled into Israel from the Gaza Strip. He has been held in the Hamas-ruled territory ever since. His family’s tireless campaign to get him released has turned him into a national cause celebre.

Although there was jubilation in Israel at the news of the deal, that has been tempered by some people warning that the price of Shalit’s release is too high.

The first phase of the prisoner swap involves 450 men and 27 women. Another 550 will be released in about two months, according to officials familiar with the Egyptian-mediated deal. Some prisoners originally from the West Bank will be sent to the Gaza Strip and other prisoners will be exiled abroad.

One Israeli group opposed to the deal, the Almagor Terror Victims’ Association, said the release would lead to further violence and abduction attempts and robbed victims of the right to live in peace.

Among the more prominent names on the list is Ahlam Tamimi, who worked as a reporter with a local television station before joining the Hamas armed wing. She received 16 life sentences for helping choose places for suicide attacks and was accused of taking bombers to some of the locations, including a Jerusalem pizzeria in 2001, where 15 people were killed.

Also to be released is Mohammed Al-Sharatha, a leader of the Hamas special elite fighting unit “101″ which kidnapped two Israeli soldiers in 1989. The two soldiers were killed. Sharatha was arrested in 1989 and sentenced to three life terms and a separate 30-year-term.

Absent from the list is Marwan Barghouti, who is serving five life sentences for murder. A popular, respected and influential figure in the Fatah political faction, there has long been speculation that he could succeed Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas if he was released from prison.

Shalit’s parents, Noam and Aviva, returned to their home in Mitzpe Hila in the Galilee region last week to prepare for their son’s return. They are expected to be reunited with him at a military base in central Israel on Tuesday, where the soldier will also be greeted by prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

Shalit will undergo intensive medical examinations, both physiological and psychological, on his release. He is also likely to face a long period of debriefing by intelligence officers.

See Related: Gilad Shalit Agreement Archive

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