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Lawsuit against Yahoo! filed in San Francisco on behalf of imprisoned Chinese dissident – Alleges Yahoo! provided identity to Chinese Government

Yu Ling, wife of jailed dissident Wang Xiaoning, in San Francisco today to file lawsuit
Photo by John Han

By Julia Cheever

The wife of a jailed Chinese dissident said in San Francisco today she hopes her lawsuit against Yahoo! Inc. will cause corporations to stop giving Chinese authorities private e-mail information.

Yu Ling, 55, said through a translator, “I hope Yahoo and other foreign companies can stop these wrong activities.”

Yu said, “I hope they can have a written commitment.”

Yu filed a human rights lawsuit against Yahoo in federal court in San Francisco on Wednesday, alleging that the Sunnyvale Internet company’s release of e-mail information led to her husband’s arrest, imprisonment and torture.

Her husband, Wang Xiaoning, 57, is serving a 10-year sentence in a forced-labor prison in Beijing after being convicted of incitement to subvert state power.

The lawsuit claims Wang was arrested in 2002 after a Yahoo subsidiary provided information that linked him to e-mails he used for anonymous publication of articles advocating democratic reforms. It claims he has been beaten and mistreated while in prison.

Wang is also a plaintiff in the lawsuit, which was prepared by lawyers from New York-based World Organization for Human Rights USA. The suit says that other imprisoned dissidents yet to be identified may be added as plaintiffs at a later time.

The lawsuit claims that Yahoo violated international human rights law as well as three U.S. laws, including the Torture Victims Protection Act.

Yahoo spokesman Jim Cullinan said on Wednesday that he could not comment specifically on the lawsuit, but said, “Yahoo is distressed that citizens in China are imprisoned for expressing opinions on the Internet.”

Cullinan said Yahoo calls on the U.S State Department to work for the dissidents’ release.

He said that companies doing business in China are required to comply with Chinese law requiring release of information or risk having their local employees face civil and criminal sanctions.

The lawsuit seeks financial compensation, punitive damages and a requirement that Yahoo and its subsidiaries take action to secure the dissidents’ release.

Yu said she hopes the lawsuit will result in her husband’s release. She said if she wins any financial compensation, she will use part of it to help other victims.

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San Francisco increases commitment to children

The Touch of Class Choir from Phillip and Sala Burton Academic High School opens SFKids Conference this morning with a rousing welcome to educators, nonprofit organizations, community leaders, and City offficials working on issues impacting San Francisco children
Photos by John Han

By Brent Begin

The state of San Francisco’s children is “better, and the best is yet to come,” Mayor Gavin Newsom told a crowd of educators, nonprofit leaders and city officials this morning at the city’s Moscone Center.

With SF Kids month in full swing, Newsom gave a rosy speech on education, housing, healthcare and safety, which have been major reasons for 30 years of “family flight” from the city.


“We’re making progress,” he said. “It may be, for some, in the margins. For others though, that have benefited from these investments, it has fundamentally changed their lives.”

This year the city has invested $30 million in family friendly housing, Newsom said, referring to 1,700 new family units that are “in the pipeline to be built.”

The mayor pledged to increase that amount to $43 million in the city’s 2008 budget. By July, he said, the city will begin to redevelop the city’s run-down public housing projects, rather than relying on the federal government for funding.

“We’re going to something that no other city in this country has ever had the audacity to do, and that is locally redevelop all of these aging housing authority projects,” Newsom said.

Probably one the loudest applauses came when Newsom touted the city’s universal healthcare initiative, which was approved by the Board of Supervisors in July 2006.

“I find it fascinating in this country, by the way, that people are so outraged to see two men kissing or holding hands on the steps of City Hall and they’re morally outraged, but they don’t have that same kind of intensity and moral outrage because their family can’t bring their kids into a medical clinic because they can’t afford health insurance,” he said.

The mayor assured today’s audience that there would be several other new programs that would make living in the city more affordable for families. He promised to create an after school program for young children by 2009, to make citywide wireless Internet available, and to make every city agency conscious of its responsibility to serve children and families.

“I think we’re turning the corner,” he said.

“Every program in this city should go through a process where we look through the eyes of our children and our families.”


Newsom also noted that the city today launched a Web site, dedicated to connecting families with services and grants.

Organized by the City’s Department of Children Youth and their Families, the state of the city’s children summit is an annual event that provides workshops on how to reverse family flight by 2011 to making public transportation more family friendly.

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California voters more upbeat about state economy

By Mark DiCamillo and Mervin Field

In a statewide survey completed in late March, The Field Poll updated its periodic measures about how residents view California as a place to live and the state of our economy. The findings include the following:

• Half (50%) describe California as one of the best places to live. This is similar to the results obtained when this question was last posted in 2002 and 2003.

• While greater than two in three residents strongly identify themselves as Californians, most residents (59%) do not think of California as a nation-state, but like any other large U.S. state.

• Voters are much more upbeat about the state’s economy than they were two years ago. More voters now describe the state as being in economic good times (42%) than bad times (31%), a reversal from how residents described the state in 2005, when twice as many felt the state was in bad times.

• Voters are generally positive when asked about their own financial well-being, with more saying they are better off (41%) than worse off (28%) financially than they were a year ago.

When asked about the coming year, most (55%) expect no change, while among those who see change ahead, many more expect to be better off (34%) than worse off (9%).

California as a place to live
Residents continue to rate California highly as a place to live. One half (50%) believe the state as one of the best places to live and another 29% describe it as nice but not outstanding. This compares to one in six (16%) who feel it is about average and 4% who say California is a poor place to live.

Residents’ current appraisal of the state as a place to live is generally on par with periodic Field Poll ratings on this topic since 1994. However, these assessments contrast with a much more enthusiastic view about the state registered between the period 1967 and 1985, when between 70% and 78% described the state as one of the best places to live.


Differences by region, age and income
Residents of the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area are more positive in their assessments of California as a place to live than those living in other parts of the state. In the Bay Area two out of three (67%) consider California one of the best places to live. This compares to somewhat smaller proportions, ranging from 41% to 47%, of the residents in Southern California and the Central Valley who say this.

Older voters and those with higher annual household incomes tend to give the state higher ratings than others.


Identification with California
Greater than two in three voters (68%) identify themselves very strongly as a Californian. This view spans all regions of the state, and all age and ethnic groups.


California as a nation-state?
Because of the size and diversity of California’s economy, many economists, politicians and others often compare the state to other countries of the world rather than to other U.S. states.

In recent speeches and television appearances, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has even likened California to a nation-state.

However, when asked how they view the state, only about one in three voters (37%) thinks of California as a nation-state, while most (59%) think of it as being like any other large U.S. state. Younger voters are more inclined than older voters to take a more expansive view, with 60% thinking of California more as a nation-state than like most other large states.


Views about California’s economy
One measure that has varied widely over the years is how residents perceive the condition of the state’s economy.

Currently, 42% describe the state as being in good economic times, while 31% think California is in bad times. Another one in four (24%) hold a mixed view.

The last time The Field Poll measured this two years ago, residents had a much less optimistic view of the state’s economy. At that time, just 24% believed that California was in good economic condition, while twice as many (49%) thought it was in bad times.

Californians’ lowest appraisal of economic conditions was in 1992, when 91% described the state as being in bad times and just 2% said the state was in good economic times.

The best ratings of the state’s economic health was found during the 1998-2001 period, when between 65% and 72% felt the state was in good economic times.

In the current poll, men and upper income Californians are more likely than others to believe the state is in good times.


Expectations of the economy for the coming year
Almost half of the voting public (48%) do not foresee any significant change in the state’s economy during the next twelve months. Among those who anticipate change, about as many (22%) believe things will get better as think conditions will worsen (27%).


Californians’ personal financial well-being
When asked to describe their current personal financial condition compared to what it was last year, about four in ten say they were better off (41%) and about three in ten feel they were worse off (28%). This is similar to findings obtained in 2004 and 2005, the last two times this was measured.

Men and voters with higher levels of household income are more likely than others to describe themselves as being better off than they were one year ago.


Economic expectations for the coming year
Californians’ own personal financial expectations for the coming year remain fairly stable, with 55% expecting no change in their financial situation next year. Among those who foresee some change, nearly four times as many think things will improve (34%) as feel their situation will worsen (9%).



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California Senators join San Francisco shock over US Supreme Court abortion ruling



By Julia Cheever

A Planned Parenthood lawyer who argued against an abortion ban approved by the Supreme Court said today that the high court’s ruling is “a shocking setback for women’s health.”

Planned Parenthood attorney Eve Gartner said, “This ruling flies in the face of 30 years of Supreme Court precedent and the best interest of women’s health and safety. Today the court took away an important option for doctors who seek to provide the best and safest care to their patients.”

The high court today by a 5-4 vote upheld a federal law known as the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003, with the majority saying the measure does not impose “an undue burden on a woman’s right to abortion.”

The law makes it a crime for a doctor to perform an abortion in which a fetus is partially delivered intact and then killed. President Bush today called the technique “an abhorrent procedure.”

Planned Parenthood and other opponents of the law contend it violates women’s constitutional right to abortion, denies them care that is sometimes needed to protect their health and additionally criminalizes procedures commonly used in second-trimester abortions.

The court made its ruling in two lawsuits, one originating in federal court in San Francisco and the other initiated in federal court in Nebraska.

Planned Parenthood was the lead plaintiff in the San Francisco case and was later joined by the city of San Francisco as a co-plaintiff. The city said the law compromised its ability to provide health care to indigent women at San Francisco General Hospital.

City Attorney Dennis Herrera said, “With today’s decision, the court has struck a blow against judicial independence and allowed politics to hijack medical care.”

But Alliance Defense Fund attorney Jordan Lorence said, “Today’s decision by the Supreme Court upholds and acknowledges that the federal ban on partial-birth abortion is a reasonable restriction on abortion.”

The fund, based in Arizona, wrote a friend-of-the-court brief together with Christian Legal Society in support of the law.

Lorence called the ruling “a welcome sign of judicial restraint from the Supreme Court.”

California’s two Democratic U.S. senators decried the ruling.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein said, “I am truly shocked by this decision. This is a major strike against a woman’s right to choose. And the effective elimination of the health exception in my view will put women’s lives in jeopardy.”

Sen. Barbara Boxer said, “Today’s decision brings home in clear terms the impact of President Bush’s Supreme Court choices. As a result of today’s ruling, the health of women who have dangerous pregnancies is now in deep jeopardy.”

The law allows an exception to preserve a woman’s life but not to preserve her health.

The high court overturned decisions in which federal trial judges and appeals courts in the San Francisco and Nebraska cases struck down the law on the ground that it lacked a health exception and interfered with a woman’s right to have an abortion.

In the Planned Parenthood case, the measure was found unconstitutional by U.S. District Judge Phyllis Hamilton in San Francisco in 2004 and by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco in 2006.

Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority opinion in today’s ruling, saying that opponents “have not demonstrated that the Act would be unconstitutional in a large fraction of relevant cases.”

Kennedy wrote that there is medical uncertainty as to whether the law creates a risk to women’s health and that other abortion procedures “that are considered to be safe alternatives” are available.

He was joined in the majority decision by Justice Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia along with Bush’s two appointees, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito.

Thomas and Scalia also wrote a separate concurring opinion noting that they see “no basis in the Constitution” for Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision in which the high court said women have a constitutional privacy right to an abortion in the time before a fetus is viable.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote in a dissent, “Today’s decision is alarming.” She noted the procedure was “found to be necessary and proper in cases by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.”

Ginsburg said the ruling was the first time since the Roe decision that the court approved a prohibition on abortion with no exception to safeguard a woman’s health.

Ginsburg was joined in the dissent by Justices John Paul Stevens, David Souter and Stephen Breyer.

See Related San Francisco City Attorney: US Supreme Court ruling upholding ban on partial birth abortion allowed politics to hijack medical care

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San Francisco City Attorney: US Supreme Court ruling upholding ban on partial birth abortion allowed politics to hijack medical care


The United States Supreme Court today upheld a controversial federal law passed in 2003 banning a procedure that abortion rights foes called “partial birth abortion,” a medically ambiguous term that had been declared unconstitutionally vague by previous courts.

The 5-4 ruling marks the first time the high court has banned a specific medical procedure involving abortion. Six federal courts had previously found that the law was an unconstitutional restriction on a woman’s right to an abortion.

Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority opinion, which was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. A strong dissent by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said the ruling “tolerates, indeed applauds, federal intervention to ban nationwide a procedure found necessary and proper in certain cases by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.”

She was joined by Justices Stephen Breyer, David Souter and John Paul Stevens.

In response, City Attorney Dennis Herrera issued the following statement: “With today’s decision, the court has struck a blow against judicial independence and allowed politics to hijack medical care. I am troubled by the majority opinion, which is unnecessarily paternalistic and ignores both legal precedent and the overwhelming medical evidence in this case. Nevertheless, San Francisco will endeavor, as it always has, to provide the best possible care to our patients consistent with the rule of law.”

In January 2004, City Attorney Dennis Herrera successfully moved to intervene in the case on behalf of the City and County of San Francisco, arguing that under the federal abortion ban, local public health services “would be compromised, potentially endangering the health and lives of the City’s neediest women.”

San Francisco is the only municipality in the nation ever to challenge an abortion restriction.

Principally in charge of the case in the City Attorney’s Office were Chief Deputy City Attorney Therese M. Stewart, Chief Deputy for Neighborhood and Community Services Aleeta Van Runkle, and Deputy City Attorney Kathleen S. Morris. The cases are Gonzales v. Carhart, U.S. Supreme Court No. 05-380, and Gonzales v. Planned Parenthood, U.S. Supreme Court No. 05-1382.

See Related: HEALTH CARE

SEE RELATED California Senators join San Francisco shock over US Supreme Court abortion ruling

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One-way to Dublin from SFO $199

Dublin’s O’Connell Bridge

Dublin is capital of the Republic of Ireland, and it’s renowned for its lively atmosphere and rich cultural heritage. A charming and cosmopolitan city steeped in history and brimming with youthful energy, it is a fantastic place in which to take a break and offers great attractions, museums, art galleries and a wealth of traditional entertainment in its pubs, cafes and restaurants. Whatever your interest, be it sport, music, history, art or literature, Dublin will have it covered.

AerLingus today announced a special fare running October 28, 2007, through December 16, 2007, from San Francisco International Airport (SFO) to Dublin priced one-way $199.

The citys heritage trails allow you to walk in the footsteps of James Joyce and William Yeats, or you could eat dinner in a castle, visit the zoo and immerse yourself in a world of art and music brimming with both classical and contemporary delights. The city’s traditional pubs are at the centre of Dublin’s social life and are the best place to get to grips with the unique culture and character that is at the heart of Dublin and its friendly people.

The historic heart of the city lies to the south of the River Liffey and is home to Dublin’s most famous landmark, Trinity College. Merrion Square, also to the south of the river; is home to the National Gallery and the National Museum, while Parnell Square plays host to the Dublin Writers Museum.

Within easy reach of Dublin is a vast array of natural beauty including magnificent cliffs, beaches, quaint harbours, rugged mountains and woodland. The wider Dublin County is dotted with charming villages and small towns as well as a number of stately homes and gardens. It takes just 20 minutes to journey to the charming coastal towns and villages of the County and, once you have escaped the city, there is a host of outdoor activities to enjoy from horse-riding and hiking to sailing and golf. The rugged and sandy coastlines also offer a great backdrop for taking a relaxing stroll.


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Vanishing gloves glimmered for public pet poo poo


A new campaign to encourage pet owners to pick up their pets’ waste will feature promotional biodegradable glove-shaped bags, according to the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission.

The educational campaign, sponsored by the SFPUC, San Francisco Recreation and Parks and San Francisco Dog Owners Group, has installed four new bag dispensers along Marina Green, according to the commission. The campaign was launched to help reduce water pollution in the San Francisco Bay and Pacific Ocean.

Pet waste that is not picked up can be washed into local waters without any treatment, the commission reported. Although pet waste is not a major contributor to water pollution, responsible pickup is the right thing to do, according to the commission.

The campaign will also feature bus advertisements with a slogan promoting picking up pet waste.

Bay City News

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San Francisco soldier Mario K. De Leon killed in Baghdad

A soldier from San Francisco was killed in Baghdad on Sunday, the Department of Defense reported.

Sgt. Mario K. De Leon, 26, died on April 16 from wounds sustained from enemy small arms fire.

De Leon was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Regimen, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Schweinfurt, Germany.

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VIRGINIA TECH MEMORIALS – Stanford University today, Grace Cathedral Tuesday


Episcopal Bishop of California Marc Handley Andrus, a graduate of Virginia Tech, will lead a service at San Francisco’s Grace Cathedral on April 24 dedicated to those who perished during the mass shooting at the college.

The public is welcome to attend the 12:10 p.m. sermon and special holy Eucharist. The event is a chance to express solidarity with those who are mourning, said Andrus.

“Everyone stands in complete solidarity for those who have lost so much there and at the same time, it awakens our compassion for people who are living with loss around the world,” said the bishop, who is based in San Francisco and serves the Bay Area Episcopal community.

Andrews earned his master’s degree in urban and regional planning from the university in 1982. His wife holds a doctorate degree from Virginia Tech.

Monday’s shooting, in which 23-year-old student Cho Seung-Hui killed 32 people before fatally shooting himself, stunned Andrus. He has been in touch with the campus ministry where he once worked and has offered them any help they need, he said Tuesday.


Andrus said the university and neighboring community enjoys a supportive culture that will serve them well as they weather the tragedy.

“I’m confident every campus ministry and organization and fraternity and sorority is reaching out to everyone there and everyone outside their circles,” he said.

At least one local university is also holding services to remember the dead in Virginia.

Today at Stanford University, Rabbi Patricia Karlin-Neuman, senior associate dean for religious life and Rev. William L. “Scotty” McLennan Jr., dean for religious life, will lead a 4:30 p.m. service in the campus’ Memorial Church.

Bay City News

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Glide Foundation names Willa Seldon new CEO

Willa Seldon

The Glide Foundation, a San Francisco nonprofit group that works to get people jobs and off the streets, has chosen a new CEO to head the foundation.

Willa Seldon, who was most recently the executive director of nonprofit conglomerate Tides Center, will join Rev. Cecil Williams and Janice Mirikitani, the founding leaders of Glide, “in steering the vision and helping develop future community building programs.”

As CEO of Glide, Seldon will be responsible for reporting to the Board of Trustees and oversee the organization’s community-serving programs and operations, according to a statement.

Reverend Cecil Williams

“Willa is truly the best person for this job — I have great confidence in her ability to lead this organization,” said Williams, who recently played himself in the major motion picture, “Pursuit of Happyness.”

Janice Mirikitani

Willa is uniquely suited to help carry Glide forward,” said Mirikitani. “She brings a rare and special combination of great business acumen and a commitment to social change.”

Seldon has degrees from three prestigious schools: Bryn Mawr College, Yale Law School and Harvard Graduate School of Business. She has also worked as an executive at AirTouch Communications and helped start the venture capital fund Milepost Ventures.

“Glide’s powerful message of unconditional love and social justice and its equally powerful service in support of its mission inspire me,” Seldon said.

“I look forward to working with its leadership team and network of supporters to increase Glide’s impact and long-term sustainability.”

Bay City News

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JEANETTE MacDONALD – First Lady of “San Francisco”

By Seán Martinfield
Sentinel Fine Arts Critic
Copyright © 2007 San Francisco Sentinel

“Other places only make me love you best!” sings immortal recording star and most beautiful soprano to emerge from the Golden Age of Hollywood, Jeanette MacDonald. Today the Balboa Theatre will be screening Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s 1936 fanciful and treasure-filled tale of The City’s great earthquake and fire of 1906, SAN FRANCISCO. Nominated for Best Picture and directed by W.S. Van Dyke, this silver-screen epic features a newly-mustachioed Clark Gable, the former lingerie queen turned opera singer Jeanette MacDonald, and as “Father Mullen”, Spencer Tracy (in his first appearance as a priest) securing a nomination for Best Actor. Not without surprise, given Miss MacDonald’s stunning vocals and the roar of The City being torn apart and blown to bits, the Oscar went to Douglas Shearer (brother of Norma Shearer) for Best Sound. The film’s most enduring contribution was its title song (created by Gus Kahn and Bronislau Kaper), eventually being declared the Official Anthem of San Francisco. This Wednesday morning, beginning at 5:12 AM, those gathering at Lotta’s Fountain will once again sing their promise to come home again and go “roaming no more!” (mi-mi-mi)


Balboa Theatre owner, Gary Meyer, having cornered The City’s long-tradition of an Anniversary screening, has sweetened the deal by double-billing it with James Dalessandro’s riveting 2006 documentary, THE DAMNEDEST FINEST RUINS. Mr. Dalessandro will introduce the 7:00 pm screening and will remain for a Q&A. SAN FRANCISCO will be screened at 1:30, 4:45 and 8:15 pm. It’s easy to get to 38th and Balboa. Ride your bike, take the bus, and bring the kids. (I’ve been hooked on SAN FRANCISCO since the 3rd Grade!) It can be an awesome experience watching these preserved views of a city bent on constant growth and change.

Today at San Francisco’s BALBOA THEATRE

While Mayor Gavin Newsom and Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White, Police Chief Heather Fong and Emergency Services Executive Director Annemarie Conroy have made extraordinary advances in making San Francisco the model of disaster-preparedness, we all know another 7.9 or worse is possible. SAN FRANCISCO’s director, W.S. Van Dyke – along with some backseat advice from epic silent film director D. W. Griffith – created fabulous scenes of devastation and day-to-day social consequences of the search and recovery. Moreover, the film might inspire a walking tour to what used to be called the Barbary Coast or over to Dupont Street (now known as Grant Avenue and how did that happen?), maybe a trip to the Main Library to see an original photo of the Mark Hopkins Mansion – destroyed in the fire (dynamited to smithereens in the film) and replaced by the hotel. The San Francisco Fire Department now offers its residents free training – NERT (Neighborhood Emergency Response Team) in order to become self-sufficient for at least three days and by developing multi-functional teams, cross-trained in basic emergency skills. In the meantime, here’s your chance to view opulent turn-of-the-century set decorations by Cedric Gibbons, gowns by Adrian, hair by Sydney Guilaroff, and to hear Jeanette MacDonald deliver the City’s Anthem in all its original splendor.

An operating principle of the Balboa Theatre is, “To ignore your past is to betray your future.” SAN FRANCISCO is one of those films that eased its way into Cultural Phenomena. Admittedly, the look and feel of the film is extremely arch; it is intended to be a melodrama, extravagant as a soap opera, and in the same vein as the lofty classics of Walt Disney. It is then gilded with the voice of Jeanette MacDonald who bolstered her critical standings with scenes from the operas LA TRAVIATA and FAUST presented at the Tivoli Opera House (at the southwest corner of Eddy and Mason Streets).

In other words, it is not ordinary daily fare; it requires a willing engagement. On a large screen, SAN FRANCISCO is a complete treat. It is not a failed attempt at realism nor is it an objective documentary. Should “The Big One” ever hit and if (as oracles have warned) the Golden Gate sinks into the waters as did the lost continent of Atlantis – some of The City’s heart and soul and the driving determination of its people will be located within the reels of this film.

The TIVOLI OPERA HOUSE, at the southwest corner of Eddy & Mason Streets

Although peppered with moral charges and religious meanderings, SAN FRANCISCO is not a tale of Divine retribution. The overriding theme is that while outsiders may perceive The City as a Sodom and Gomorrah, those within understand that no one is left alone outside its gates, praying for hospitality. The story begins with cries of “Happy New Year” to 1906 from a crowd gathered in front of the Poodle Dog Restaurant – at the northeast corner of Mason and Eddy Streets, diagonally across from the elegant Tivoli Opera House over on the southwest corner – both of which will be destroyed come the wee hours of Wednesday morning, April 18th. One of the revelers announces that wine is flowing freely down at Lotta’s Fountain at Market and Kearney. Maybe he’s the same guy who later yells to the throngs of homeless encamped atop Alamo Square, “The fire is out!” Compacted within that span of time are all the elements necessary for a star-studded and profit-making extravaganza, this script coming from Anita Loos.

“Let’s see your legs,” says Paradise Music Hall owner “Blackie Norton” (the very fetching Clark Gable). “I said I’m a singer!” replies Jeanette MacDonald (as “Mary Blake”, a parson’s daughter, freshly arrived to The City known for its wickedness and labeled as “Queen of the Coast”).

“C’mon, c’mon,” he says, “let’s see ‘em.” Mary raises her long skirt to mid-calf and her skeptical eye-brow to high noon. He leans and smirks. “A little thin for down here. What would you say to seventy-five a week?”

All at once Mary realizes her days in the choir stalls are over. She’s gonna make it big as a Saloon singer, in a joint with a dealer and a pool table, where the swells from Nob Hill go slumming, and down the alley is the entrance to the Red Light District. She crashes to the floor.

“I guess she fainted,” says Blackie to Mat, a not-so-fetching, in-between-the-girlie-acts crooner.

“Yeah,” he replies. “Give me seventy-five bucks a week and I’ll drop dead!” [Fade-out:]

Brace yourself for the concluding scenes! With the announcement up at Alamo Square that the last burning ember has been dowsed, and with the rallying cry of “We’ll build a new San Francisco!” – the crowd bursts into the “Battle Hymn Of The Republic” and begins marching toward a better view of the eastern skyline. Still dressed in the now ruined ostrich-plumed and beaded finery worn to “The Chickens’ Ball” from those few fate-filled-nights before – Jeanette, Clark and Spencer lead the crowd in its triumphal march. As with any true diva, Jeanette quickly seizes the opportunity and lets fly her silvery soprano way over the chanting crowd having now segued into “San Francisco”. With her voice rising higher and higher, so does The New City above its wreckage. [Fade out]

“San Francisco” – both script and song – was written for Jeanette MacDonald. She campaigned for Clark Gable to be her Leading Man. Smart girl. In its collective wisdom, our City Officials one day decreed that the song should always rank as its #1 Anthem (the second being that other one). The film and Jeanette’s recording will survive and be adapted to every playback device ever to be invented ever/ever and every one of our City’s future residents will come to know both it and her.


Jeanette MacDonald was a gorgeous and temperamental Diva. She will forever be San Francisco’s First Leading First Lady.

Suggested recordings: San Francisco and Other Jeanette MacDonald Favorites
San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus – Tours America ’81*

*Track 6: San Francisco (features the author)

See Seán’s recent articles and reviews:

LA VIE EN ROSE (La Môme) – Biography of Edith Piaf A Sensation at the 50th San Francisco International Film Festival
SPIDER-MAN 3, An All-American Cinematic Marvel
RIGOLETTO – SF OPERA Broadcasts on Classical 102.1 KDFC
DON QUIXOTE – An Impossible Dream at SF Ballet
THE DAMNATION OF FAUST – Absolute Heaven at Davies Symphony Hall
JEANETTE MacDONALD – First Lady of “San Francisco”
An Interview with PASCAL MOLAT – Principal Soloist, San Francisco Ballet
TERRA HAUTE – An Interview with The Stars, John Hutchinson and Elias Escobedo

San Francisco Sentinel’s Fine Arts Critic Seán Martinfield is a native San Franciscan. He is a Theatre Arts Graduate from San Francisco State University, a professional singer, and well-known private vocal coach to Bay Area actors and singers of all ages and persuasions. His clients have appeared in Broadway National Tours including Wicked, Aïda, Miss Saigon, Rent, Bye Bye Birdie, in theatres and cabarets throughout the Bay Area, and are regularly featured in major City events including Diva Fest, Gay Pride, and Halloween In The Castro. As an Internet consultant in vocal development and audition preparation he has published thousands of responses to those seeking his advice concerning singing techniques, professional and academic auditions, and careers in the Performing Arts. Ask him a question on . If you would like to build up your vocal performance chops and participate in the Bay Area’s rich theatrical scene, e-mail him at:

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Don’t expect much from SFO police tinkering, sighs Elsbernd

District 7 Supervisor Sean Elsbernd

By Brent Begin

The Board of Supervisors passed a plan today that could make it easier to send police officers from San Francisco International Airport to stations throughout the city.

But both supervisors and police officials said the resolution would do little to change the way officers are currently transferred within the department. Critics also said that with airport security a nationwide priority and with the Police Department’s current staffing shortage, the plan is merely a procedural exercise.

The resolution requires that the department provide detailed requirements for airport security, and that it lays out a plan for deployment in the city under certain circumstances.

Those circumstances include whenever the staffing level in the city drops below the charter-mandated 1,971 officers and at times when there is an increase in crime or violence.

Supervisor Sean Elsbernd said the that dwindling numbers in the department and airport and the needs of a post September 11 world will outweigh any flares of violence.

“I vote for this with very little expectation that anything’s going to become of this,” Elsbernd said.

Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, who authored the resolution, admitted that the current staffing shortage poses a problem for redeployment of officers, but he said in the future the resolution will provide flexibility and a way to dodge any bureaucratic obstacles.

San Francisco International Airport is situated in an unincorporated patch of San Mateo County. Federal authorities, as well as peninsula law enforcement agencies, all share in the security duties of the airport.

Commander Jim Lynch with the department’s airport bureau said that San Francisco police officers take care of a bulk of that security.

“We really don’t see this as a change,” said Lynch, who has worked at the airport for over 20 years.

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Many Californians forced to cut back on food, clothing due to gasoline prices

By Mark DiCamillo and Mervin Field

Californians are feeling the sting of the recent spike in gasoline prices beyond the $3 per gallon threshold, and many report cutting back spending in other areas.

Residents with household incomes of less than $40,000 a year to be forced to reduce spending in other areas and are more likely than others to view the price run-up as a serious matter.

When Californians are asked who is to blame for the price hikes, two in three (65%) place a lot of the blame on the oil companies. This is a larger proportion than felt this way in 2005 (58%), after prices spiked above the $2 per gallon level in the summer of that year.

About half of the state’s voters (46%) also fault the Bush Administration’s policies a lot for the runup in gas prices. Another 37% place a lot of the blame on foreign countries producing the oil and 29% fault Americans who drive vehicles using a lot of gasoline.

These are the main findings from the latest Field Poll of California voters about gasoline prices completed late last month.

Seriousness of the gasoline price increase
The large majority of California voters – 70% – see the recent gasoline price increases as a very serious (35%) or somewhat serious (35%) matter. This compares to just 29% who say the price increases are not serious.

People at the lower end of the income scale and younger Californians under age 40 are more likely than others to describe the increase as very serious.

The current findings are similar to those found in the summer of 2005 when gas prices last took a big jump.


Many forced to make cutbacks in other areas
Nearly half (44%) report that because of the recent run-up in gas prices, they’ve had to cut back in other areas of spending, such as food, clothing or dining out.

Those making less than $40,000 report this to a much larger extent than those with higher incomes.

In addition, disproportionately more people in the 18-39 age group and those living in Southern California report being affected by the price increases.


Who is to blame?
Two in three Californians (65%) attribute a lot of the blame for higher gas prices to the oil companies. This is greater than the 58% who faulted the oil companies during the last spike in gasoline prices two years ago.

Large segments of the public (46%) also cast a lot of blame on the Bush Administration for the increase, while another 37% feel oil producing countries are the cause.

A smaller proportion (29%) places a lot of the blame on Americans who drive vehicles that use a lot of gasoline.



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San Francisco Virginia Tech alumnus shocked – UC President vows security review




Photo by Michael Kiernan

Two shootings that left 33 people dead on the Virginia Tech campus Monday morning shocked alumni who have settled in the Bay Area and prompted the University of California president to vow to review UC’s safety procedures to avert a similar tragedy.

San Francisco resident John Emami, who graduated from Virginia Tech in 2005, learned of the massacre through a friend’s text-message.

Emami immediately began trying to contact friends who still attend the school.

Emami’s friends are all accounted for Monday afternoon, and he was able to speak to some of them shortly after the ordeal.

“It’s just chaos down there, pretty much. They were making everyone stay inside and they didn’t know what was going on at first,” Emami said.

Virginia Tech police today identified the shooter who took 32 lives as well as his own Monday in the worst gun rampage in U.S. history as Cho Seung-Hui, a 23-year-old South Korean national and resident alien who was a senior English major at the university.

Cho’s body was found in one of four classrooms in Norris Hall where he took most of his victims, said Virginia Tech Police Chief Wendell Flinchum.

President Bush and California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today ordered national and state flags flown at half-staff.

“Our Nation grieves with those who have lost loved ones at Virginia Tech. We hold the victims in our hearts. We lift them up in our prayers, and we ask a loving God to comfort those who are suffering,” said Bush.

“As a mark of respect for the victims of the senseless acts of violence perpetrated on Monday, April 16, 2007, by the authority vested in me as President of the United States by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, I hereby order that the flag of the United States shall be flown at half-staff at the White House and upon all public buildings and grounds, at all military posts and naval stations, and on all naval vessels of the Federal Government in the District of Columbia and throughout the United States and its Territories and possessions until sunset, Sunday, April 22, 2007. I also direct that the flag shall be flown at half-staff for the same length of time at all United States embassies, legations, consular offices, and other facilities abroad, including all military facilities and naval vessels and stations.”

Police said Cho used two guns in the classroom building, where the bulk of the killings occurred. One of the guns, they said, was also the one that was used to shoot and kill the two victims in the dormitory about two hours before the slaughter in Norris Hall.

“It’s certainly reasonable for us to assume that Cho was the shooter in both places,” Finchum said. But he said police had not entirely ruled out the possibility that there were two shooters.

According to university officials, the incident began with a 911 call to the university police at 7:15 a.m. Officers responded to West Ambler Johnston Hall to find two shooting victims. Both victims died.

West Ambler Johnston Hall is a co-ed dormitory that houses almost 900 students and is one of the largest residential buildings on campus.

Two hours later, while police were investigating the incident, another call came in reporting a second shooting, the university reported.

The second attack took place in Norris Hall, an engineering building about a half a mile away from Ambler Johnston Hall. Thirty-one people, including the gunman, died at Norris Hall. Another 15 people shot in that location are hospitalized, the university confirmed.

Walking briskly, it would take someone about 15 minutes to travel the distance between the two locations, Emami said.

For Emami, the shooting hit especially close to home. The former engineering student attended classes at Norris Hall and lived for a time in West Ambler Johnston Hall, known to students as “West AJ.”

“It’s just shocking,” he said.

San Francisco resident Nathan Frankel, who graduated from Virginia Tech in December of 1995, was also shaken by the news. Frankel said he heard the news from his father, who lives a couple of hours from the campus.

“My dad e-mailed me this morning and he said there was a shooting and that one person was killed. By the time I clicked on the link to the news story, it was up to 20. I was really shocked,” said Frankel, who also attended classes in Norris Hall.

The campus is located in the town of Blacksburg, which Frankel described as a place where crime is relatively uncommon.

“It’s a very quiet town. If there was one murder in the year, people were surprised and took notice of it. I can’t even imagine an event of this magnitude,” Frankel said.

Blacksburg is essentially a college town, Emami said.

“It’s just a peaceful southwest Virginia town. Not much goes on besides college,” he said.

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State Parks Foundation teams with PG&E for Earth Day restoration work April 21

Utility offers cash grant, employee volunteers for park projects this Saturday

SAN FRANCISCO—Pacific Gas and Electric Company today announced that it is granting $155,000 to the California State Parks Foundation to help fund long overdue restoration and environmental improvement projects. Additionally, more than 1,000 PG&E employees, retirees and their families will work alongside community volunteers on Earth Day, Saturday, April 21, to help clean up and restore 16 state and community parks in northern and central California.

2007 marks the sixth consecutive year the utility has partnered with the California State Parks Foundation on the Earth Day Restoration and Cleanup program. Over the past six years, PG&E has granted over $600,000 to fund vital maintenance and improvement projects at California’s parks, with over 2,700 PG&E employees contributing 10,708 volunteer hours on Earth Day.

Volunteers are needed. To RSVP, click here.

At 16 park sites on April 21, PG&E volunteers will plant trees and shrubs, remove invasive non-native plants, clear trash and debris, and make other improvements to parks, such as installing irrigation systems. PG&E will also provide volunteers with free energy-efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs to help them reduce their carbon footprint. In 2006, nearly 900 PG&E employees and their families volunteered at a dozen parks across the state, where they planted more than 2,000 trees and plants, removed approximately 725 bags of trash and laid 25 tons of trail rock on Earth Day.

“Protecting the environment and giving back to the community are two values that are tightly woven into the fabric of PG&E’s culture, so teaming up with California State Parks Foundation for the annual park restoration and cleanup campaign is a perfect partnership,” said PG&E CEO Tom King. “We are so proud of the hundreds of energized PG&E employee volunteers who walk the environmental stewardship talk and make a powerful difference in the communities we serve.”

Community participation at parks on Earth Day is critical this year, as continued funding pressures and a backlog of more than $1.2 billion in deferred maintenance projects threaten the vitality of parks and beaches across the state. California’s 278 state parks comprise more than 1.5 million acres of land which needs to be maintained.

“PG&E’s ongoing support of the California State Parks Foundation’s Earth Day Restoration and Cleanup program has been a major factor in its success,” said Elizabeth Goldstein, President of the California State Parks Foundation. “Over the past five years, they have contributed not only financially, but through the hard work of over 2,700 employee volunteers. Their partnership has given under-funded, understaffed parks the opportunity to complete long deferred projects that otherwise would not have been possible.”

The California State Parks Foundation celebrates the 10th anniversary year of the Earth Day Restoration and Cleanup Program on April 21. Since its inception in 1998, the California State Parks Foundation Earth Day program has had tremendous impact: 54,500 participants have contributed more than 222,315 volunteer hours worth an estimated $5,042,126 in park maintenance and improvements. Including $90,000 in grants distributed this year, the Foundation has awarded more than $898,000 to state parks throughout California.

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Study finds 30% of teachers in urban public schools think students not motivated to learn

By Caitlin Cassady

Thirty percent of teachers surveyed in urban schools do not think that their students come to school motivated to learn, according to a study released today in San Francisco.

“Where We Teach,” released by the Council of Urban Boards of Education, surveyed teachers and administrators from urban school districts, including San Francisco Unified School District, about the learning culture on their campuses.

The study pulled information from 12 school districts in 10 different states in order to study the learning environment in urban schools, according to Brian Perkins, author of the study and president of the New Haven Board of Education.

By asking teachers and administrators about the culture on their campuses, the survey illuminates which influences are the most detrimental to students’ education.

“Urban education is about the culture and climate we set in classrooms,” said Anne Bryant, executive director of the National School Board Association. “We can’t find solutions to problems until we identify what those problems are.”

Although the study indicates that 30 percent of teachers surveyed believe their students don’t come with a desire to learn, only 20 percent of San Francisco teachers thought that their students were not motivated.

According to Gwen Chan, acting superintendent of San Francisco Unified School District, this study gives administrators a starting point for what kinds of programs they should be implementing in schools.

“We need to figure out why students are not motivated, and work to change that,” Chan said today.

Perkins conducted a study last year through the council that asked students questions about their schools and the learning climate.

The “Where We Teach” study surveyed same schools as the “Where We Learn” study was to see the difference between the teachers and students perceptions of their environment.

The two studies focused the questions in eight main areas: bullying, expectations of success, influence of race, professional climate, professional development, parental involvement, safety and trust, respect and ethos of caring, according to Perkins.

According to Jill Wynns, San Francisco School Board Commissioner, the most recent study is a huge bonus for San Francisco schools, because they have never conducted a survey that focuses on how teachers feel in the classroom.

“This is not only revealing, but surprising,” Wynns said of the study.

“It was very interesting to see where the perceptions of the students and the teachers were similar and where they varied,” Wynns said.

When asked about whether they thought students brought guns or knives to school, 25 percent of teachers agreed and 22.5 percent of administrators agreed, according to Perkins. However, in the student survey almost 50 percent of students thought that their peers carried guns and
knives on campus.

“The important part of this is not how many students actually carry weapons on campus, but how many students feel unsafe on campus,” said Perkins. “Its all about their perceptions of safety.”

When students feel safer at school they tend to have better standardized test scores, according to Perkins.

Another huge result from the study was the difference between what administrators thought of their schools as opposed to what teachers thought, according to the study. One of the questions asked was if teachers and administrators thought that their students would do well at community colleges or universities.

Nearly 93 percent of administrators thought that their students would do well, while only 77 percent of teachers thought that their students would succeed in higher education.

The difference between how teachers and administrators view their campuses is something that this study brought to light, Wynns said, and we need to address it. Teachers and administrators need to sit down together and discuss where the differences stem from, so that they can work together to improve campus culture for students, according to Wynns.

Overall the study provides school districts a good base of information, Perkins said.

Administrators and teachers can look at the data collected in this study and begin to ask their own questions about how to improve the culture at schools and in classrooms.

See Related Students Want For Nothing At This San Francisco High School.

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Students want for nothing at this San Francisco High School

Meditative music accompanies physical education class at San Francisco University High School
Photo by John Han

By Pat Murphy
Sentinel Editor & Publisher
Copyright © 2007 San Francisco Sentinel

All 92 senior students are likely to graduate this year, heading from the sloping hills of Pacific Heights off to college in the Fall, more failsafe prepared than many universities require.

The curriculum is tough and broad at the San Francisco University High School (SFUHS), a Mediterranean style structure designed by San Franciscan Julia Morgan, the architect of Hearst Castle.

Hearst Castle
Photos from the San Francisco Museum Collection

San Francisco University High School, the former Katherine Delmar Burke School built in 1916, is located at 3065 Jackson Street between Baker and Lyon Streets.



To receive a diploma at SFUHS, students must complete four years of English, three years of mathematics, three years of foreign language, two years of laboratory science, two years of history, two years of fine arts, four years of physical education, and four years of community service.

Classrooms average 14 to 15 students.

Photos by John Han


Extensive computer instruction, 20 advanced placement courses, and a wide range of electives augment student preparation.

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom on a visit this month to SFUHS.

The electives, too, come with tough standards — photography students must complete two years of black and white photography before attempting color photography.


The school, which this year holds enrollment of 389, was founded in 1973 with its original facility now housing classrooms, administrative and faculty offices, and student lounges.


The Dennis A. Collins Library, named for school founder, is a 7,500 square-foot facility added as a third floor in 1984.

A Middle Campus, across the school courtyard and facing Washington Street, houses three science laboratires, music and drama facilities, and a 500-seat auditorium.



The Lower Campus and Herbst Gymnasium are located across Washington street, home to a language laboratory, the computer center, two science classrooms, three art studios, a photography darkroom as well as faculty offices.


New construction last year added a Student Center, new science laboratories, a new Arts and Humanities Lecture room, new music practice rooms, and a fitness room.


Tuition is $32,000 a year and the school foundation throws in an extra $1,000.

San Francisco public high schools spend $6,100 to educate each pupil, while SFUHS devotes $33,000 to prepare students.

See Related Study finds 30% of teachers in urban public schools think students not motivated to learn

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Military leaders say global warming threatens US security

WASHINGTON, D.C. (April 16, 2007) Global climate change presents a serious national security threat that could affect Americans at home, impact U.S. military operations and heighten global tensions, according to a study released today by a blue-ribbon panel of retired admirals and generals.

The study, “National Security and the Threat of Climate Change,” explores ways projected climate change is a “threat multiplier” in already fragile regions of the world, exacerbating conditions that lead to failed states—the breeding grounds for extremism and terrorism.

The CNA Corporation, a nonprofit research and analysis organization, brought together eleven retired four-star and three-star admirals and generals to provide advice, expertise and perspective on the impact of climate change on national security. CNA writers and researchers compiled the report under the board’s direction and review. The full report will be available on

The Military Advisory Board members come from all branches of the armed services. The board includes a former Army chief of staff, commanders-in-chiefs of U.S. forces in global regions, a former shuttle astronaut and NASA administrator, and experts in planning, logistics, underwater operations and oceanography. One member also served as U.S. ambassador to China.

“Climate change is a national security issue,” retired General. Gordon R. Sullivan, chairman of the Military Advisory Board and former Army chief of staff, said in releasing the report at a Washington news conference. “We found that climate instability will lead to instability in geopolitics and impact American military operations around the world.”

“People are saying they want to be perfectly convinced about climate science projections,” he said. “But speaking as a soldier, we never have 100 percent certainty. If you wait until you have 100 percent certainty, something bad is going to happen on the battlefield.”

Military Advisory Board members said they remain optimistic that climate change challenges can be managed to reduce future risks. The first step recommended in the study is for the national intelligence community to include comprehensive assessments of climate change in future security plans, just as agencies now take into account traditional but uncertain threats.

As part of its five specific recommendations for action, the Military Advisory Board stated that “the path to mitigating the worst security consequences of climate change involves reducing global greenhouse gas emissions.”

“There is a relationship between carbon emissions and our national security,” General Sullivan said recently. “I think that the evidence is there that would suggest that we have to start paying attention.”

“Carbon emissions are clearly part of the problem,” he added.

“We will pay for this one way or another,” stated retired Marine Corps General Anthony C. Zinni, former commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East. “We will pay to reduce greenhouse gas emissions today, and we’ll have to take an economic hit of some kind. Or, we will pay the price later in military terms. And that will involve human lives. There will be a human toll.”

Retired Navy Vice Admiral Richard H. Truly, a shuttle astronaut and former NASA administrator, said in the report that “unlike the challenges that we are used to dealing with, these will come upon us extremely slowly, but come they will, and they will be grinding and inexorable.” Truly also notes that “maybe more challenging is that climate change will affect every nation, and all simultaneously. This is why we need to study this issue now, so that we’ll be prepared and not overwhelmed by the required scope of our response when the time comes”

Environmental Threats Have Security Implications
The report recognizes that unabated climate change could bring an increased frequency of extreme storms, additional drought and flooding, rising sea levels, melting glaciers and the rapid spread of life-threatening disease. While these projected effects are usually viewed as environmental challenges, the Military Advisory Board has looked at them from the perspective of national security assessments and has identified them as serious risk factors for:

– massive migrations
– increased border tensions
– greater demands for rescue and evacuation efforts
– conflicts over essential resources—including food and water

Such developments could lead to direct U.S. military involvement, the board found.

“Climate change can provide the conditions that will extend the war on terror,” said retired Admiral T. Joseph Lopez, former commander-in-chief, U.S. Naval Forces Europe and of Allied Forces, Southern Europe. “Rising ocean water levels, droughts, violent weather, ruined national economies—those are the kinds of stresses we’ll see more of under climate change.”

“In the long term, we want to address the underlying conditions that terrorists seek to exploit,” Admiral Lopez said. “But climate change will prolong those conditions. It makes them worse.”

Impacts on U.S. Military Intervention and Regional Stability
The report describes national security implications of climate change in regions of the world.

The report states that “Tensions may rise as immigration from Africa and the Middle East—exacerbated by climate change—places additional social and economic pressures on countries. Some of America’s strongest allies may be distracted as they struggle to protect their own borders. Such an inward focus may make it more difficult to build international coalitions, or engage in exercises to ensure readiness.”

“Europe will be focused on its own borders,” retired Admiral Donald L. Pilling, vice chief of naval operations, said in the report. “There is potential for fracturing some very strong alliances based on migrations and the lack of control over borders.”

The report focuses on the ways in which climate change can contribute to shortages of food, drinking water and farmland, adding strain in a region that is already the source of 30 percent of the world’s refugees. It states: “Such changes will add significantly to existing tensions and can facilitate weakened governance, economic collapses, massive human migrations, and potential conflicts.”

“We ought to care about Africa because we’re a good country,” retired Air Force General Charles F. “Chuck” Wald said in the report. As deputy commander of the United States European Command, he was also responsible for U.S. forces in Africa. (Supervision of American forces in that continent was recently moved from EUCOM into a new “AFRICOM” command.) “We have a humanitarian character; it’s one of our great strengths, and we shouldn’t deny it. Some may be tempted to avert their eyes, but I would hope we instead see the very real human suffering taking place there. We should be moved by it, challenged by it. Even in the context of security discussions, I think these reasons matter, because part of our security depends on remaining true to our values. …

“We import more oil from Africa than the Middle East—probably a shock to a lot of people—and that share will grow. …we’ll be drawn into the politics of Africa, to a much greater extent.”

Middle East
Noting this is the region of the world in which the U.S. is most engaged militarily, the report states that “water resources are a critical issue… and will become even more critical… Competition for increasingly scarce resources may exacerbate the level of conflict.”

“The existing situation [in the Middle East] makes this place more susceptible to problems,” General Zinni, the former CENTCOM commander, said in the report. “Even small changes may have a greater impact here than they may have elsewhere. You already have great tension over water. These are cultures often built around a single source of water.

“It’s not hard to make the connection between climate change and instability, or climate change and terrorism,” General Zinni added.

Latin America
The report states: “Rising sea levels will threaten all coastal nations. Caribbean nations are especially vulnerable in this regard, with the combination of rising sea levels and increased hurricane activity potentially devastating to some island nations … and a likely increase in immigration from neighbor states.” In addition the report finds that “[l]oss of glaciers will strain water supply in several areas, particularly Peru and Venezuela.”

The report finds that many factors may affect the continent. Potential sea level rise would have a severe impact with almost 40 percent of Asia’s population of nearly 4 billion living within forty-five miles of coastlines. In addition, the reduced availability of farmland and drinking water and the increased spread of infectious disease would destabilize the region.

One Military Advisory Board member, retired Navy Admiral Joseph W. Prueher, views Asia from two perspectives, having been commander of all U.S. forces in the Pacific and later U.S. ambassador to China. He suggested, as the full report does, that the U.S. should work with key international partners, including China, one of the leading emitters of atmospheric carbon.

“On the issue of carbon emissions, it doesn’t help us to solve our problem if China doesn’t solve theirs. And that means we need to engage with them on many fronts,” Admiral Prueher said in the report. “Not talking to the Chinese is not an option.”

Impacts on Military Bases and Operations
The Military Advisory Board found that climate change impacts may affect U.S. military bases, requiring the Pentagon to prepare differently for future national security scenarios. It outlined specific ways that climate change will add to the difficulties facing future U.S. military leaders:

– Rising sea levels could threaten coastal bases at home and abroad.

– Increasing storm activity could deter the military’s ability to perform routine maintenance or carry out regular exercises.

– Changing ocean salinity could require changes in sonar and submarine systems.

– Drought conditions could require new logistical plans and equipment for moving water to U.S. troops in war zones.

– The need for new kinds of humanitarian operations could necessitate new training to address these different missions.

Climate change may have differing impacts on the four branches of the armed services. The former head of the U.S. Army Materiel Command, retired General Paul J. Kern, said changes may make it more difficult for the Army to handle basic supplies.

“Military planning should view climate change as a threat to the balance of energy access, water supplies, and a healthy environment, and it should require a response,” General Kern said in the report. “Responding after the fact with troops—after a crisis occurs—is one kind of response. Working to delay these changes—to accommodate a balance among these staples—is, of course, another way.”

General Wald raised additional concerns. “There are a number of questions we should be asking now, if we’re to prepare for some of the projected impacts,” he said in talking about the report. “Will the Air Force be expected to move larger quantities of supplies, including fuel, food or drinking water? Will they be expected to move larger numbers of people, perhaps in evacuations? Will we have the right kind of equipment, personnel and training to handle new missions, without diminishing our conventional military capacity? That’s barely a start, but it gives you a sense of the scale of potential change.”

The report notes that changes in the salinity of oceans, if glaciers melt and water temperatures change, could affect submarine equipment such as sonar. There may also be a greater need for civilian evacuations. Marines and Special Operations forces are trained and equipped now primarily for small- to medium-sized rescue operations.

Admiral Pilling said that if climate change increases the frequency or intensity of hurricanes, there could be a destabilizing effect on the Navy, especially in the Southeastern United States. “It may cause you to move ships north to avoid hurricanes. If a ship’s captain thinks he’s in the middle of hurricane season, he’s going to go out—get away from port. It impacts maintenance schedules and impacts operational structures. And that doesn’t factor in the damage that hurricanes can do to our ports.”

The report cites the Arctic as a region of particular concern for military planners. “If the warming we’ve seen in the high Arctic continues, then there is a possibility of a new sea route, a ‘Northwest Passage’ if you will,” Vice Admiral Paul G. Gaffney II, former chief of naval research and the former president of National Defense University, said about the study. “Will we be ready for both that opportunity and a new sea lane to defend? Will we have the right kinds of ships? Will we be ready for the acoustic surveillance challenges in a changed environment? Will it inspire a mission that requires greater air support from the Navy or the Air Force? What kinds of new basing arrangements will be necessary? These are questions security planners should be contemplating.”

The Military Advisory Board chose not to engage in debate over climate science but did note that current levels of atmospheric carbon are already at historically high levels and are increasing. “This rise presents the prospect of significant climate change,” the board said in its letter transmitting the report to the American public. “And while uncertainty exists and debate continues regarding the science and future extent of projected climate changes, the trends are clear. The nature and pace of climate changes being observed today and the consequences projected by the consensus scientific opinion are grave and pose equally grave implications for our national security.”

The Military Advisory Board called on the Defense Department to find ways to limit the extent of climate change, in part by controlling its own greenhouse gas emissions and fuel use while simultaneously increasing combat capabilities for American forces worldwide.

“Our national security is inextricably linked to our country’s energy security,” said retired Navy Admiral Frank “Skip” Bowman, who was director of the Naval Nuclear Propulsion program.

“The military should be interested in fuel economy on the battlefield,” retired Lieutenant General Lawrence P. Farrell Jr., who was deputy Air Force chief of staff for plans and programs, said in the report. “It’s a readiness issue. If you can move your men and materiel more quickly, if you have less tonnage but the same level of protection and firepower, you’re more efficient on the battlefield. That’s a life and death issue.”

Findings and Recommendations

The report includes several formal findings:

– Projected climate change poses a serious threat to America’s national security.

– Climate change acts as a threat multiplier for instability in some of the most volatile regions of the world.

– Projected climate change will add to tensions even in stable regions of the world.

– Climate change, national security and energy dependence are a related set of global challenges.

The report also made several specific recommendations:

– The national security consequences of climate change should be fully integrated into national security and national defense strategies.

– The U.S. should commit to a stronger national and international role to help stabilize climate changes at levels that will avoid significant disruption to global security and stability.

– The U.S. should commit to global partnerships that help less developed nations build the capacity and resiliency to better manage climate impacts.

– The Department of Defense should enhance its operational capability by accelerating the adoption of improved business processes and innovative technologies that result in improved U.S. combat power through energy efficiency.

– DoD should conduct an assessment of the impact on US military installations worldwide of rising sea levels, extreme weather events, and other possible climate change impacts over the next thirty to forty years.

Military Advisory Board Members
The Military Advisory Board is composed of eleven of the nation’s most senior former officers and national security experts:

– Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan, USA (ret), former Army chief of staff and current president of the Association of the United States Army (board chairman)

– Adm. Frank “Skip” Bowman, USN (ret), former director of naval nuclear propulsion at the Naval Sea Systems Command

– Lt. Gen. Lawrence P. Farrell Jr., USAF (ret), former deputy chief of staff for plans and programs, Headquarters U.S. Air Force

– Vice Adm. Paul G. Gaffney II, USN (ret), former chief of naval research and head of the Navy Meteorology and Oceanography Command

– Gen. Paul J. Kern, USA (ret), former commanding general, U.S. Army Materiel Command
Adm. T. Joseph Lopez, USN (ret), former commander-in-chief, U.S. Naval Forces Europe and of Allied Forces, Southern Europe

– Adm. Donald L. Pilling, USN (ret), former vice chief of naval operations and Navy chief financial officer

– Adm. Joseph W. Prueher, USN (ret), former commander-in-chief of the U.S. Pacific Command and former U.S. ambassador to China

– Vice Adm. Richard H. Truly, USN (ret), former NASA administrator, shuttle astronaut and the first commander of the Naval Space Command

– Gen. Charles F. “Chuck” Wald, USAF (ret), former deputy commander, USEUCOM and director of Strategic Planning and Policy at Headquarters U.S. Air Force

– Gen. Anthony C. Zinni, USMC (ret), former commander, CENTCOM

Writing and research support for the report came from The CNA Corporation.

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Schwarzenegger proclaims Days of Remembrance for Holocaust Victims

California Governor Schwarzenegger delivered remarks today for Yom Hashoah, which commemorates the six million Jews killed during the Holocaust. The Governor also issued a proclamation naming April 15 – April 22 as “Days of Remembrance.” Schwarzenegger is seen at at the Yom Hashoah Commemoration at Pan Pacific Park in Los Angeles .
Photo by Duncan McIntosh
Office of Governor Schwarzenegger

by the
Governor of the State of California

It is almost unfathomable to think that just sixty years ago, the Nazis mesmerized a nation in support of their wicked ambitions. The Nazi regime and its collaborators targeted Jews for elimination, with the very young and old often the first victims. During their terrifying reign, more than six million European Jews were murdered when World War II came to an end. Among that number, more than one million were children.

The Nazis all but decimated European Jewry, while also persecuting and killing Gypsies, Poles, homosexuals, political dissidents, the handicapped, and millions of others they perceived to be unworthy of life. However, amidst the depths of depravity also appeared a different side of humanity – one of courage where Jews were saved by their neighbors. The Protestant Huguenot population in the French village of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon hid Jewish children from seizure; the German industrialist Oskar Schindler saved more than a thousand Jews in his business; and a Jewish family was saved by their Muslim neighbors in Albania.

The United States Holocaust Memorial Council has done a tremendous job to educate Americans about the history of the Holocaust. This year, the Museum has designated “Children in Crisis: Voices from the Holocaust” as the theme for the 2007 Days of Remembrance week in memory of the victims, and to honor those who attempted to save their lives.

Though nothing can change the past, we must learn the lessons of the Holocaust so as not to repeat its horrors. These lessons should be impressed in our minds as not merely something we read in a history book, but rather as something that shocks and stirs our souls. And we must continue to draw attention to and do everything we can to stop current-day horrors such as the genocide in Darfur. To that end, we mark the first day of this week-long commemoration, April 15, as Yom Hashoah, the Day of Remembrance.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER, Governor of the State of California, do hereby proclaim April 15 – April 22, 2007 as “Days of Remembrance” in California.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF I have here unto set my hand and caused the Great Seal of the State of California to be affixed this 6th day of April 2007.


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No arrests in possible murder by auto


A San Francisco man was killed when the driver of a black car drove onto the sidewalk, struck the man and caused a foot injury to another pedestrian this afternoon near a San Francisco park, according to police.

According to the San Francisco medical examiner’s office, 41-year-old Lonnie Ross died around 6 p.m. due to his injuries. Ross and the driver of the vehicle involved had reportedly had an argument before the driver went onto the pavement and struck Ross, according to police.

The incident occurred around 2:30 p.m. at the intersection of Capitol Avenue and Lobos Street, near Ocean View Playground and Recreation Center.

According to police, the vehicle was described only as a black car and no one has been arrested in relation to the incident.

Bay City News

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People Paddle for AIDS

Safety drill before People Paddle
Photos by John Han

On April 15, 2007, twenty-three AIDS service organizations inspired individuals kayaking on the bay to raise over $22 thousand dollars to help with the fight against AIDS. 117 kayakers launched from the South Beach Marina at 10:17 am, paddled to McCovey Cove, a little way under the bridge and up Mission Creek and then back to a finish line at South Beach Pier 40. All arrived back safely. Sergeant Danny Lopez of the SFPD Marine Unit commented on the “well organized event”.

One Brick volunteers work on the docks

The event was organized by People Paddle, a consortium of individuals dedicated to combining kayaking with fundraising and was sponsored by Healing Waters, whose mission is to empower, inspire and enrich the lives of people living with HIV/AIDS through outdoor adventures.

PeeWee Memorial fund for Jennifer Newsom’s dog, championed by athlete Patricia Cowden, brought in pledges for PAWS


Healing Waters Executive Director, Mike Dugan, stated, “This is the first time that AIDS service organizations have worked together on a fundraising event out on the water. People are so excited about having a good reason to try kayaking while helping their favorite HIV/AIDS organizations to raise much needed dollars.”


Healing Waters performed volunteer coordination, checked the integrity of all participants’ life jackets, performed coat check duties, security, provided banking, database management and a thousand other details necessary to this event.

Some of the beneficiaries were: AIDS Emergency Fund, AIDS Health Project, AIDS Legal Referral Panel, Asian & Pacific Wellness Center, Bay Area Young Positives, 360 Black Coalition on AIDS, Derek Silva Community of Catholic Charities, Healing Waters, Hazel Betsy program of Lutheran Social Services, Metropolitan Community Church, Mission Neighborhood Health Center, Most Holy Redeemer AIDS Support Group, Native American Health Center, New Leaf, PAWS, Positive Force program of the STOP AIDS Project, Positive Resource Center, Project Open Hand, Shanti and Vital Life Services.

According to volunteer event coordinator, Melody Lacy, “The second most exciting thing about People Paddle, aside from the paddling, is the registration and pledging software, written by Dean McCully, which empowers donors and paddlers to choose exactly where their dollars go. This is going to become Large”. The software automatically directs eighty-five percent of all pledges raised to go directly to the nonprofit organizations ‘championed’ by the individual kayakers. Healing Waters contracted to pay all event costs, even if they exceeded the remaining 15%. Thanks to the support of many sponsors and frugal efforts on the part of many volunteers, even Healing Waters will benefit from People Paddle.

The sponsors included the California Department of Boating and Waterways, the City and County of San Francisco Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services, San Francisco Supervisor Chris Daly, Metromint, Aquan Sports, Blue Waters Kayaking, Energy 92.7 FM/KNGY, Half Moon Bay Kayaking, REI, Sea Trek Kayak of Sausalito, Trader Joe’s Bay Street store and the Sports Basement’s new Presidio store. The historic Java House Café provided a discount to People Paddlers, encouragement, support, advertising and an electrical outlet for the band! The efforts of many created an event people will be talking about for some time to come.

Participants received a breakfast snack, designer bottled water by METROMINT and a T-shirt, as well as a safety whistle and other toys, coupons and surprises. City Kayak, San Francisco’s premier kayak rental establishment, provided untold hours of free support and over 60 kayaks at half price to the People Paddle participants. One Brick and Alpha Phi Omega, the National Service Fraternity at USF performed as Dockworkers, carrying kayaks and helping people into and out of boats.

The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence blessed the fleet as they launched from Pier 40, race shouted encouragement to the paddling kayakers while riding along in Captain Rick Webber’s safety boat, provided special blessings to many individuals, presented awards and led the dancing as Kimrea and the Dreamdogs entertained the crowd after the last kayak arrived safely ashore.


Dignitaries in attendance included Scott Oswald, Jason Chan and Alex Randolph, members of the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services, who presented Mike Dugan of Healing Waters with a notable proclamation declaring April 15, 2007 “People Paddle for AIDS Day in San Francisco”. Supervisor Chris Daly moved the supporting resolution unanimously through the Board of Supervisors.

Mayor’s Liaison to the LGBT Community Alex Randoph


Supervisor Chris Daly
File Photo by Bill Wilson

People Paddle founders, Dean McCully and Lisa Bickford, and People Paddle Event Coordinator Melody Lacy plan to repeat the People Paddle event in the future along with the sponsor Healing Waters. According to McCully, “Not only is this an excellent way enjoying the beautiful bay, meeting new people and making new friends, but preliminary accounts indicate we raised over $22 thousand dollars to fight AIDS today!” Final accounting due in 30 days because pledges may continue to trickle in over the next couple of weeks.

The weather was spectacular and the kayaks colorful against the inimitable views of South Beach.






To learn more and find out when the next People Paddle will occur go to

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TERRE HAUTE – Premieres at New Conservatory Theatre Center – An interview with its stars – John Hutchinson and Elias Escobedo

By Seán Martinfield
Sentinel Fine Arts Critic
Copyright © 2007 San Francisco Sentinel

TERRE HAUTE, by playwright Edmund White, is described as an “imagination” of the interview between author Gore Vidal and Oklahoma bomber Timothy McVeigh – just before his execution. The characters, renamed as “James” and “Harrison”, exchange intimate details about their lives within guarded confines at the prison. An impenetrable wall separates them physically. In order for James to tell Harrison’s story effectively, he must win his friendship and trust. Harrison does not want his act of terrorism to be misunderstood nor his character polluted with conjecture and lettered falsehoods. James demands Harrison open up to him or his story will suffer. How that comes about is the stuff of White’s imagination.

Harrison in the midst – ELIAS ESCOBEDO

Beyond imagination were my two separate interviews with the actors who portray these characters. John Hutchinson (as the Gore Vidal character, “James”) and Elias Escobedo (as “Harrison”, the stand-in for McVeigh) are separated in age by more than four decades. John earned his M.A. in Speech and Drama from Stanford University. Elias graduated from UC Davis with a degree in Dramatic Arts. They are committed artists, professional non-union performers, brilliant communicators, and captivating entertainers. As with all San Francisco Bay Area actors striving to build their résumés and advance their academic skills into the professional arenas, John and Elias are well-acquainted with the pitfalls that come with (to be or not to be) union membership and the suffering inflicted upon local performing artists as resident professional theatre companies continue their practice of importing card-carrying union members.

Enter the New Conservatory Theater Center (at 25 Van Ness Avenue) and its Artistic Director, Ed Decker. Within the past several years it has become overwhelmingly obvious that NCTC is nurturing and presenting some of San Francisco’s finest actors, singers, and directors. The plays running in any of its three theatres reflect the diversity of culture and spirituality that The City prides itself in and broadcasts to its visitors. It was my privilege to settle in for a couple of hours and interview the two gentlemen appearing in the gripping drama, TERRE HAUTE, opening last Friday evening and scheduled until May 6th.

JOHN HUTCHINSON – as James, in Edmund White’s TERRE HAUTE

SEÁN: How did the audition happen for you and what did you do for it?

JOHN: I performed with New Conservatory three years ago in a play called KILT. I’ve gone back since then to do staged readings. There are other Gay-oriented theatres in the Bay Area, but I found New Conservatory so welcoming – especially to a person like myself. It wasn’t until I turned 60 that I said to myself – “I’ve to get serious about this / I’ve got a degree from Stanford / I’ve worked in Hollywood!” That’s back in the Stone Age now. But I quit the family business, retired, and joined Eastenders Repertory Company in Oakland. I was fortunate enough to be cast by Bruce Elsperger [Casting Director at NCTC] and I was able to get to know Ed [Ed Decker, NCTC Artistic Director] who is such a supportive, wonderfully honest and genuine person. So, I found a kind of home there. Although I haven’t performed that much there, I feel very comfortable there. Last September I was just finishing up an engagement doing “Gloucester” in KING LEAR out in Moraga.


J: I got an e-mail from Ed, “Don’t take any jobs. I’m going to send you a script. I want you to hold onto it, take a look at it and we’ll talk again in January.” He knew I had been busy. I’ve been fortunate to be cast in one play after another.

S: Back up a little bit. When you were preparing the KING LEAR audition what did you use for your Shakespeare monologue?

J: My Shakespeare piece is from MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING, Leonato’s speech:
“I pray thee, cease thy counsel,
Which falls into mine ears as profitless
As water in a sieve…[Act 5, Scene 1]

S: How was the experience of doing “Gloucester” and how long did that production run?

J: Hal Gelb was the director. He’s involved with Golden Thread Theatre that works out of Traveling Jewish Theatre. The play was a condensation put together under the sponsorship of St. Mary’s for the student body. We did it for a weekend.

S: Was it a reading?

J: No, it was fully staged.

S: And you got all of two or three performances? Was that enough to justify all the work and memorization?

J: An actor makes a decision based on so many things. In the Bay Area, it’s not what they’re going to pay you – although the New Conservatory is very generous in paying its performers. It’s about the opportunity to work with certain directors and certain people to broaden your experience and theatrical performance.

S: When Ed Decker contacted you, did he give you any indication what the role was?

J: He sent me the script and told me the role was based on the Gore Vidal character. I have always been a Gore Vidal fan. I find his essays quite witty, very cogent, and very appropriate as political commentary. I read the play. It’s all one Act, sixty-plus pages, a lot of talk. I was curious how they would handle what appeared to be a rather static situation. The audition came; Ed greeted me with open arms and said, “Thank you for hanging on.” I read for the director, Christopher Jenkins, and got the role.

S: In my position as a teacher and writer I hear all kinds of things. Only every now and then do we see a real piece of theatre that questions something, does not set out to reach absolute conclusions, allowing the viewers to process the information in their own way. The script of TERRE HAUTE is brilliant. I am amazed to come to the New Conservatory Theatre Center and witness two magnificent performances. So, may I ask how old you are?

J: Seventy. Last September. Behind my back.

S: It just creeps up one day and bites you in the ass. OK, given that, tell me about your memorization process for this two-person / hour-and-twenty-minute play.

J: You’re stepping on my Achilles heel, honey! It was tough, it was challenging. What the author Edmund White has done so successfully is to capture the rhythms of speech of two very different people. “Harrison’s” [McVeigh's] speech is so explosive, machine-gun-like, and uneducated. “James”, as the Vidal character, is smooth and articulate, honeyed, and grand in a way. I was able to capture the essence of the rhythm, the speech patterns White came up with – because, as you know, you don’t just memorize words you memorize the rhythm of a piece and its flow. Once I found that, it became much easier.

Author Edmund White establishes his rhythms, those distinguishing speech components for his “James” at the very beginning of the interview. He cajoles and wheedles information from “Harrison”, employing severe reprimands, detachment and disdain, the control of “a top”, even jealousy. Harrison counters by playing the celebrity card. He says to James that “The Unabomber” occupies the cell next to his. “Oh, really!?” replies James. At that moment, a huge glow comes over Mr. Hutchinson – as if to suggest to Harrison (Elias Escobedo) that a better and more interesting (perhaps, sexier?) interview was in-waiting just a little further down the hall. Hovering above everything else is James making it clear that Harrison must answer the probing personal questions – especially those about his sexual identity and experience. If he refuses, then Harrison’s story may prove an average one, something far less than what Harrison had hoped for or expected. James succeeds in tweaking Harrison’s vanity. The buzzer signals the end of the visiting time. Harrison must return to his cell. What if James does not come back tomorrow? How then will his story be told?

TERRE HAUTE – By Edmund White, at the New Conservatory Theatre Center

S: Thus, the categories – the “how” of your addressing Harrison – helped in your memorization.

J: Yes, very much so. That gave it the hook – some people would use the expression “trigger” – for getting through that.

S: What was the hardest part?

J: The explosive scene, the “I’m stupefied” speech of Scene 3. It is difficult because the performer can’t give everything away. It is the one scene where Harrison confronts James in such a way as to demolish all of his pretensions and so-called education. It is a fiery outburst that leaves James suddenly exposed as Harrison – in his lack of education can no longer respond, but responds in a vicious [physical] way towards the old guy. My job was to maintain the build, to give something that Harrison can react against – a reason to explode in the way that he does. Edmund White builds that particular scene in four very brief sections. James comes to the realization that he is basically dealing with a naive and uneducated person who has some terrible ideas, and then the realization that he has been duped, seduced, allowed himself to be seduced. And then the realization that he has to somehow defend his being there, that is, James has to defend being in the room with this mass murderer. Then finally, the “coup de grâce” – when he talks about the sacred books of burning lives and all, that you can no longer use the expression of “collateral damage.” This ends, of course, in Harrison’s explosion. Each of those four segments had to be very carefully handled. The difficulty is that in the heat of the moment – as I am coming across like that – it’s really tough to stay grounded because I am getting so excited inside myself, in the character. You know as a performer, you have to distance yourself.

S: When choosing the Timothy McVeigh character, how many actors did you read with and was there a question of “chemistry”?

J: After I was cast they had me come in and read with three young men, one right after the other, in the same series of scenes. After they left, Christopher came over to me and said, “Well? What do you think?” Not that I was casting the part, but how comfortable did I feel with the person. I said, “I don’t remember anybody else – just Elias.” He came off the mark running. He was incredible, blew me away – a tremendous risk-taker, tremendously committed to the role. I don’t mean this in a bad way – he is ambitious. He knows where he is going with his art. It is so exciting to work with someone like that.

S: You have to be ambitious or it’s just not going to work. Whatever his drive, it is in total communication with you and with us. How long did you rehearse?

J: At the end of February we had our first sit-down read-through, rehearsed through the end of March – in all, about 3½ weeks. It was intense.

S: The relationship of the two characters – obviously, with a prison barrier between them – what were the difficulties in communicating “here’s what’s happening on this side of the wall for me and on that side of the wall for you”? The ultimate symbol of it being penetrated being the removal of his shirt and the first real intimacy that happens for Harrison with another human being – someone with a name. Did the two of you go through those proverbial Theatre Exercises? Was there any resistance?

J: There was good communication right off. Elias is a committed performer. He knew what Edmund White wanted and the director was inclined to a subtle approach.

JAMES and HARRISON – The final moments, Edmund White’s TERRE HAUTE

S: It totally works.

J: My own feeling was that we owe it to the audience to show and do it this way. Not only is this the fantasy that James maintains, it is the reward that Harrison gives him, the generosity of his spirit. It is the very thing that James talks about in the closing monologue. There was a huge discussion during the rehearsal process – is McVeigh / Harrison homosexual or not? Vidal doesn’t believe there are labels. You are just sexual. What you are today is what you are today. The challenge that Elias and I faced was me probing him in such a way and him resisting in such a way that we set up a kind of inexplicable mystery about “Is he or isn’t he?” It is not the hook that the play hangs on, but it is still part of the subtext.

S: It’s not surprising that the moment happens. It’s surprising that it is so authentic. In the simple direction of Elias holding his shoulders this way, he drops his shirt that way and you both count to 10 – it radiates what it radiates and we deal with it.

J: It’s a moment in the play where neither one of us is counting. Somehow it just happens organically.

S: The timing is perfect. If it embarrasses those not expecting it – well, too bad! Theatre provokes. The act pushes a simple button. The audience knows that moment is not going any further because it can’t. Though it may be a gimmick of the author, it is not transparent. It is Theatre. Before the end of the run, do you foresee a performance with an understudy? Is there somebody that will take over if Elias suddenly has a huge attack of hay fever?

J: No! We’re it.

S: Can you envision doing this role somewhere else?

J: Oh, with great love!

S: What’s on your Calendar after this?

J: I’m doing a one-act called FRIENDS that is being booked into retirement communities and other venues. Also, a new play being written about Eleanor Roosevelt, I have been asked to play FDR.

S: Do you have a dream role?

J: I’ve done a lot of dream roles. I remember “Maitlin” in CHALK GARDEN, but many don’t even remember the play. I would love to do ALL MY SONS.

Some of us remember multi-Tony Award winning actor Fritz Weaver who created the role on Broadway and John Mills in the award-winning 1964 film version. As an ideal candidate for the role of “Joe Keller” in Arthur Miller’s ALL MY SONS, John Hutchinson can easily stand beside (while holding his M.A. in Speech and Drama from Stanford University) other interpreters of the role including Ed Begley, James Whitmore, Edward G. Robinson, and Richard Kiley.

Later that day I spoke with Elias Escobedo. As “Harrison”, the Timothy McVeigh character, Elias puts forward a frighteningly real personification of America’s dedicated terrorist.

E: When the lights come up, the first thing you see is an image of the blown-out building and me standing in the middle of it. It’s brought up again at the end. The bombing was 12 years ago. Since then we’ve had 9/11 – almost 3,000 deaths, the Iraq War – more than 3,000 deaths. I was 15 when McVeigh killed 168 people 12 years ago. When I asked my friends to come see this show, they’re saying – “Oh, McVeigh … some kind of train bomb or something?” For me, it’s so important for people to just come off the street and be reminded. For an hour I’m going off about this building, the bomb, how I set it up, how it’s left half-standing. But unless you’ve recently seen it, you may not remember exactly how destructive it was. From an actor’s point of view, when the lights come up – it’s BOOM! That’s what I did. It’s all I need to get me going. Now I have to defend what I did. It sets the bar really high, right off the bat.

ELIAS ESCOBEDO – as Harrison, in Edmund White’s TERRE HAUTE

S: The play could have been about anybody. What if I didn’t know there was a bombing in Colorado and then an interview with this guy by a particular author. What would my reactions be to the production? I know they would be the same.

E: That’s refreshing to hear. We talked so much about the bombing during the rehearsal process. All these books! I’ve been scanning the TURNER DIARIES and ALL-AMERICAN MONSTER. There is so much literature on this guy.

S: How did you learn about the audition and what did you do for it?

E: I found out about the audition through the casting director, Bruce Elsperger, who I’ve known for about four years. Whenever he thinks I’m right for something at NCTC he shoots me an e-mail and invites me directly to the callbacks. This is my eighth production at NCTC. I’m really familiar with Ed Decker and how he runs it. I really enjoy working there. For a non-union theatre, Ed runs one of the most professional companies. That’s what makes me want to work there. So, Bruce sends me this e-mail and I thought, “Well, that’s cool. That’s different. It caught my eye and got me pumped about the audition. It’s not the traditional kind of story that NCTC would tell. I got the sides [excerpts from the script] and knew it was good. Purely from an actor’s point of view, this is meaty stuff! It’s got so much dynamic, and all these emotions and explosions and how it comes out. The sides were pretty much the most intense moments in the play. At the audition, they must have read at least 15 guys for Harrison. I’m sitting there ready to go in and I just felt good about it. I was very relaxed. When you’re relaxed you can just walk in and do your thing. I read with John. I listened to what he was actually saying in the script and it just got me going.

S: Did you see any of the other auditionees?

E: I did.

S: What was your reaction to them?

E: They all had a similar build to me. The first guy before me was in there for a long time. I think he was the first one of the evening. When you’re waiting to go in and the guy before you is in there for 25 minutes – well, they must love him, reading all these scenes over and over again – and I’m thinking, “I’ve really got to bring my chops here!” Then the guy right before me, he had a shaved head and looked dead-on like Timothy McVeigh. Still, even with those two against me, I’m going to go in there and do my thing. Those are the best auditions. It’s all about being able to stay relaxed.

S: What do you think got you the role?

E: In one word – Intensity. I took a minute – I wouldn’t call myself a Method Actor, I don’t go back into my personal experiences. But I do bring honesty to a character. The sides they were having me read, there was only one way to play them. I remember specifically this one scene – in the actual audition – where the character talks about what I’ve actually done. It’s Scene 3, when James turns on me – I’m just another Socialist wannabe slave and I’m the one who was fooled – and I explode at him because he’s saying, “Oh, think about all the lives you took and life is sacred” and all that. I just listened to what he said about all the dangling bodies and the babies … and my reaction came honest. The next thing I know I’m screaming at him! And I am into it. I just got lost in the text and lost in the character and the next thing you know I’m shouting and crying and not even realizing it. I got home and I told my friend, “That was really weird. I was so in the moment.” I brought intensity and I brought an honesty.


S: In the aspect of the McVeigh character that is the trained military person – the stoic look, the non-conveyance of any information when standing at attention – did you work on this prior to the audition or is all of this new to you? Because whatever it is you are intending to hide is in fact pouring out of you.

E: I hadn’t really practiced that before the audition. In the rehearsal process we really didn’t talk about his military-like behavior. It came naturally, because what I focused on was the facts, the background of this guy. Yes, he was in the military. But he’s also been in jail the last six years and most of the time he’s been in isolation. In certain areas of Death Row you’re in your cell 23 hours a day. Then all of a sudden you’re in a small room with another guy. What do you do? The first scene especially is just so awkward. Even if he was a sociable guy, after being on Death Row, you’re going to behave in a very monotone way at first. I think that’s where that came from.

S: Good! What’s on the horizon for you?

E: I have a few projects coming up. After this, I’ll be doing SPECIAL FORCES at Theatre Rhino. I think John Fisher is directing.

S: How did that happen for you?

E: Just an audition. I did his generals a year or two ago. I’m a very proactive actor. I do all the general auditions.

S: You have to!

E: You have to. I mail out my headshots. I go North Bay, South Bay, East Bay.

S: Is your goal to stay in the Bay Area?

E: I don’t have a big dream to be a famous actor in LA. I want to work and I want to make money doing stage.

S: My goal is to keep Bay Area actors in the Bay Area and to call it like I see it. There is a mythology that when actors are brought in from somewhere else, i.e., those with New York credits, that a production is somehow going to be better. All that does is to take away employment from the large body of talent that is here in the Bay Area and the level of that talent is incredible.

E: You are absolutely correct. It’s refreshing to hear it from you. I’m an “Equity must-join”. That means I’ve collected a number of EMC (Equity Membership Candidate) points. I have 60. I can work with NCTC because they are a non-union theatre. The next time I work with a union theatre, such as Marin Shakes where I will be working this summer, they will have to offer me an Equity contract. I’m in the middle of all this right now and there are exceptions to the rule. You can write a Letter of Confession to Equity saying, “Can I wait to turn Equity, etc.”. The problem with Equity – as a young actor, in the Bay Area especially – is that it can be a double-edged sword. If you’re in LA or New York – yes, get your Equity card and go. But in the Bay Area there is a handful of theatres that offer Equity contracts such as Berkeley Rep, Cal Shakes, Marin Shakes, A.C.T., Theatre Works – that group. The problem is they only have four or five Equity contracts per show. In the Bay Area there is already a circle of Equity actors they use over and over again.

S: That is true.

E: Then the Leads – the main Leads – they fly-in from New York. What I am trying to do as a San Francisco native and as a Bay Area actor is to break-into that circle. And it’s not easy. Just as you pointed out, it’s not easy in the Bay Area. We only have a handful of Equity companies. So, I’m in this must-join grey area, I’ve got SPECIAL FORCES that I think I can get a waiver on because I don’t have to go Equity with them. Then in the summer I’m doing “The Henry’s” with Marin Shakespeare Company, HENRY IV, Part 1 and HENRY IV, Part 2 – playing “Prince John”. And I have to talk to Equity about that! Prince John is a smaller character. I’m not sure they can afford an Equity contract for that character / they want me to be non-union / I don’t want to give up all my points. It gets really complicated.

S: It’s really crazy! I sailed through 20 years as a professional singer without that union-thing hanging in front of me. And now, as a professional vocal coach of 24 years, I can tell you that the jobs, the roles, the developmental things young performers need to do in order to become the Artist who can pay his bills and have a relatively comfortable life style cannot happen in the San Francisco Bay Area with this Equity-thing hanging over their heads all the time. Thus, it forces a sense of ruthlessness.

In “Harrison”, I think you have the role of a lifetime. Speaking as a singer, you are doing my favorite job – that being, me and somebody else – my accompanist – sharing the stage for an hour and twenty minutes.

E: If I was Equity, I couldn’t have gotten this role.

S: Exactly!

E: My on-line identity, my e-mail is theatredaze. It’s my life. I’m in this daze of Theatre, trying to do my passion – but also make a living. Unfortunately, the only way you can make a living in theatre is to get that weekly paycheck. But, if you turn Equity, you say, “OK! Now I can get a weekly paycheck” – and then all of a sudden these companies don’t hire you because now they have to pay you.

S: Do you have a dream role?

E: I’m a big Shakespeare guy. I would say “Hamlet” is definitely up there. Up at Marin Shakes – Bob [Artistic Director, Robert Currier] knows my work. I don’t have this desire to play “Romeo”. Too easy! I like something darker, a little deeper. I like intelligent roles. Perhaps “Lt. Daniel Kaffee” in A FEW GOOD MEN.

S: Tell me about The Shirt Scene. “Harrison” is going to take his shirt off and be a real human being. He’s going to expose himself. I shouldn’t be that hard of a thing to do, but it’s obviously unnerving to everybody in the audience for one reason or another. It’s everything and it’s nothing. What’s it like for you?

Photos by Lois Tema

E: The moment is a very powerful moment and it should be. It feels intense and it feels powerful. For me, it was never a question of whether the Timothy McVeigh character is, possibly, Gay. I don’t think that’s what the scene is about. As you say, it is possibly the first time he is actually making a human connection. Doing the show for an hour – with all this anger and pain the character has locked inside – there’s something about John’s character I can connect with. The eve before I’m going to be executed I can finally become vulnerable and connect with someone. My character does it for two reasons. One – to actually make this human connection before he dies; and two – to thank James. To thank him and to show, “You know what? You actually listened to me and tried to hear where I’m coming from, unlike all the other tough reporters that have come in saying that I’m just a baby killer. It’s a powerful moment. The play wouldn’t be the play without that moment.

S: I agree totally. John described the timing of the scene as being “organic”. That is, unlike the singer or the dancer in the same moment who has an assigned number of beats and then moves out of it. So, what is going through your head in that moment, while you are standing there giving us your best?

E: I am very in the moment for that last part of the last scene towards the end of the play. I get to be absorbed in the moment, because I am not talking. Finally! I’m just there with John. That last part, where I’m slowly unzipping, slowly getting him to come to the window – I don’t talk. I just breathe. And I’m very much there. I’m wrapped up in my character. Things are going through my mind – it’s hard for him. I can’t forget how hard that must be. To be in this cold, isolated cell and to be going through all those things in your mind – “You are going to be executed tomorrow.” For him to clear his head enough to experience that with the James character is remarkable.

S: During the pressures of the audition, how did you communicate to John that he needed to work with you?

E: To be honest, Christopher runs a very tight audition. You come in and do your scene – he thanks you, and then you leave. There was very little chance to even talk with John. We are in the Decker Theatre, John is already on the stage, Bruce and Christopher are sitting in the seats.
Christopher, you remember Elias. / Hey, how’s it going? / Great. / OK, let’s read.
I don’t even remember a handshake.
This is John. He’ll be reading with you. / Hey, John, how’s it going?
And that’s it! You get into it. You pour your heart out to this guy in three scenes and afterwards it ends just as quickly. It was – OK, that was a good read. / Thank you. / Thank you. We’ll let you know.
I don’t know if those were the exact words. It was a very keenly-run audition.

S: During rehearsals, was there ever a time when there was a struggle for the two of you to connect?

E: Actor to actor or character to character?

S: Actor to actor.

E: Not really. John and I just seemed to connect right off the bat. We are similar in our acting styles. We are both non-union professionals. It was very friendly. We focused on the script. I had no problems looking him in the eye and meaning it, no problems becoming vulnerable. That’s how I knew we were going to be OK. The only thing we had to work on was our lines.

S: So – just for the SAN FRANCISTO SENTINEL – what final thing do you want the readers to know?

ELIAS ESCOBEDO – Now at NCTC, San Francisco

E: I’m lucky to have this unique opportunity. I’m an actor’s actor – I’m always looking from an actor’s point of view. This role is so unique. I’m trapped inside this box. I move five-feet by five-feet. To see someone try to express themselves when they are so limited – it’s engaging. This role is different. This play is different. Some of the things we talk about in that hour cannot be found on-line on a blog. It’s especially rewarding to see NCTC doing something a little darker and this grounded.

S: It is Quality to begin with.

E: It’s just two guys talking it out. The difference is – one of the guys blew up a building.

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See Seán’s recent articles and reviews:
ALTAR BOYZ – In San Francisco
PASCAL MOLAT, A Stroll Through Eden/Eden
COLOR ME KUBRICK – starring John Malkovich

San Francisco Sentinel’s Fine Arts Critic Seán Martinfield is a native San Franciscan. He is a Theatre Arts Graduate from San Francisco State University, a professional singer, and well-known private vocal coach to Bay Area actors and singers of all ages and persuasions. His clients have appeared in Broadway National Tours including Wicked, Aïda, Miss Saigon, Rent, Bye Bye Birdie, in theatres and cabarets throughout the Bay Area, and are regularly featured in major City events including Diva Fest, Gay Pride, and Halloween In The Castro. As an Internet consultant in vocal development and audition preparation he has published thousands of responses to those seeking his advice concerning singing techniques, professional and academic auditions, and careers in the Performing Arts. Ask him a question on . If you would like to build up your vocal performance chops and participate in the Bay Area’s rich theatrical scene, e-mail him at:

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One more in critical condition


One man is in critical condition this morning after he was stabbed outside a restaurant on 24th and Mission streets, in San Francisco’s Mission District on Saturday night.

According to a San Francisco police officer, at around 10 p.m., the victim got into an argument with another person who proceeded to stab him.

The officer said the victim is being treated for serious injuries at San Francisco General Hospital and no suspects have yet been apprehended in connection with the stabbing.

Bay City News

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San Francisco streets remain vile

Unending loop of Fiddler tunes

San Francisco police released more information today about an early morning shooting in the Tenderloin neighborhood that left one woman dead and injured four other people.

In that attack, Sgt. Neville Gittens said that an as-yet-unknown person initiated the gunfire, which prompted a wheelchair-bound man to return shots. As a result of the ensuing shootout, a woman was killed and among the four injured, a 23-year-old woman suffered life threatening injuries.

According to Gittens, 32-year-old Walter Simon, a Richmond resident, was booked on one count of homicide and three counts of assault with a deadly weapon. The attack took place in the 300 block of Ellis Street around 12:03 a.m. According to Gittens, police believe Simon is responsible for three counts of assault with a deadly weapon and one count of homicide.

Police do not know who was responsible for the other victim of the gunfire.

According to Sgt. Steve Mannina, Simon was in a wheelchair when the shootings occurred. Police also took into custody a gun they believe was used in the attack.

Officers working at the Tenderloin station heard shots shortly after midnight and ran to the scene of the attack in the 300 block of Ellis Street. They found five people shot and were able to take Simon into custody.

Of the shooting victims, a 54-year-old woman was taken to San Francisco General Hospital where she died of her injuries. Her name has not been released by the San Francisco medical examiner’s office pending the notification of her family. A 23-year-old woman from Richmond suffered life-threatening injuries and was taken to San Francisco General Hospital, Mannina said.

The rest of the victims, a 50-year-old man from Oakland, a 44-year-old man from San Francisco and a 25-year-old man whose residence is unknown were all taken to San Francisco General Hospital. They are expected to survive, according to Mannina.

In an unrelated incident, a man who was shot in the arm and abdomen around 4:19 p.m. Friday in the Tenderloin neighborhood later died in a hospital. The attack took place at Golden Gate and Hyde streets, according to Gittens.

Gittens reported earlier that a suspect in that fatal shooting was taken into custody, but as of today, there have been no arrests in connection to the specific charge of homicide. Several juveniles were arrested in connection to the attack, but none of the juveniles has been linked to the homicide, Gittens said.

Bay City News

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