Friday, September 23, 2016

Soda Industry Spent $67 Million Fighting Sugar Taxes and Health Labels Since 2009

by Winston Cho
Fri, Sep 23, 2016 at 7:48 PM

The sugar-sweetened beverage industry's lobbying group, the American Beverage Association, and its two largest members, Coca-Cola, and PepsiCo, spent at least $67 million fighting local soda taxes and warning labels on drinks in 19 cities and states since 2009, according to a report by the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

One of the fronts where the soda war is being fought is Oakland, where companies have already spent $747,268 to oppose measure HH, a soda excise tax of one cent per ounce on distributors that will fund health education programs.

The trade association and two beverage companies have also spent upwards of $130 million lobbying at the federal level — of which a significant proportion was directed toward fighting public health measures, including an updated Nutrition Facts Label and Dietary Guideline for Americans. After spending $40 million fighting a federal soda tax in 2009, the spending has leveled off to $15 million annually over the last two years.

"There is no better way to understand the public health importance of soda taxes and warning labels than to see how much money Big Soda is willing to spend to oppose them," said CSPI health promotion policy director Jim O'Hara.  "If those policies aren't going to work like Big Soda says they won't, why are they writing such massive checks?"

In several cities where soda taxes are on the ballot, the companies have attempted to brand them as "grocery taxes," claiming that the prices of other goods besides soda will go up. But a year after Berkeley's soda tax was passed, a study found that consumption of sugary drinks dipped by as much as 21 percent, validating the efficacy of the tax as a regulation that reduces sales of sugary beverages. As a result, other Bay Area cities, including San Francisco and Albany, have put similar taxes on the ballot.

The industry spent $9.2 million fighting San Francisco's 2014 soda tax ballot initiative, which won 55 percent of the vote but failed to garner the two-thirds majority required to pass the measure. The soda industry has already reserved $9 million in television advertising for the final leg of the campaign, according to supporters of the tax.

In contrast to previous years, there has been much more pro-soda-tax financial support to combat the industry's opposition to these public health measures. Billionaires Michael Bloomberg and John and Laura Arnold, as well as the American Heart Association, have provided the four cities — Philadelphia, Boulder, Berkeley, and San Francisco — which have attempted to pass soda taxes with more than $4 million in support.

Oakland has raised slightly more than $800,000 from these sources while San Francisco has raised an estimated $1 million.

Many Oakland residents are complaining about the proliferation of mailers, and TV and social media ads calling the soda levy a "grocery tax."

"There are a lot of really misleading advertisements going on," said Laura Nixon, a public health media researcher at UC Berkeley. The soda companies have used a different argument in every community where there's been a soda tax, said Nixon. "In Richmond, the emphasis was that it would hurt low income folks and that it was racist. They used stuff like this was a blank check to city hall and that it wasn't going to spend the money on health programs."

Low-Level Cops Facing Punishment in East Bay Sex Crimes Scandal

Critics say charges don't go high enough, commanders not held accountable.

by Darwin BondGraham and Ali Winston
Fri, Sep 23, 2016 at 6:29 PM

Four months after the East Bay police sex crimes scandal made international headlines, authorities are beginning to hold cops accountable. In a scene certain to play out several times over in the coming weeks, Oakland officer Brian Bunton was arraigned this afternoon in Alameda County Superior Court for allegedly trading information about police sting operations for sex with the victim, who goes by Celeste Guap. Bunton was first identified by the Express in June.

Wearing a light-blue suit and visibly nervous before a phalanx of cameras and more than a dozen reporters in a Hayward courtroom, Bunton's bail was set by Judge Armando Cuellar at $12,500.

Bunton’s attorney, Dirk Manoukian, described the officer as a forty-year-old "family man" who was remorseful — yet his client pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Bunton is one of seven cops facing criminal charges. The cities of Oakland and Richmond have also imposed administrative discipline on 21 current and former officers for misconduct.

But according to court records, city documents, and Guap’s attorney, Pamela Price, all the officers disciplined are low-level cops. No commanders have been punished or charged.

Attorney Pamela Price.
  • Attorney Pamela Price.
Price said she is concerned that the criminal and administrative investigations stopped short of looking at supervisors. "We're not just asking that low-level staff be the ones who are held accountable," she said outside the Hayward Hall of Justice. "The climate of each department is set by the leadership."

Price previously called on Attorney General Kamala Harris to take over investigations in Alameda and Contra Costa counties, because of concerns that law enforcement isn’t holding their own accountable.

Price also said she suspects Guap is not the only individual exploited by police in the Bay Area, and she hinted at a larger conspiracy to suppress information. However, Price has yet to provide more detailed information regarding other possible victims.

In addition to Bunton, Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley has filed charges against Livermore officer Daniel Black, former Oakland Sgt. Leroy Johnson, Oakland officer Giovanni LoVerde, and former Contra Costa County Sheriff's Deputy Ricardo Perez.

O’Malley said she also plans to charge Oakland officers Terryl Smith and Warit Uttapa. Smith quit the department in May, while Uttapa was recently transferred to the theft section of the criminal-investigation division. None of the cops charged by O'Malley rank above sergeant.

Yet there remain questions about former Oakland Chief Sean Whent's role in the OPD scandal. Did he stall or prevent criminal and internal-affairs investigations into police misconduct? And what did he know, and when, about the abuse of Guap?

Whent was allowed to leave the department without discipline in June.

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf continues to insist that Whent voluntarily resigned, and that his departure was unrelated to the sex crimes. In press conferences earlier this month, both Schaaf and O'Malley said Whent was not a subject of either the city's administrative probe or the DA’s criminal investigation.

Whent recently applied for the job of police chief in the City of Salinas, but wasn’t hired. Sources close to OPD say he is being considered for a job at the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office.

O'Malley's decision to charge former Oakland Sgt. Leroy Johnson with a misdemeanor for failing to report Guap's underage relationship with Officer Brendan O'Brien has rankled many current and former OPD, who spoke to the Express on the condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation.

Commanders who may have had similar knowledge but did not report it do not appear to be subject to any open investigations.

If Oakland commanders were to be investigated for violating department policies, one area authorities might look into would be the thirteen-year-old Negotiated Settlement Agreement. This requires that potential officer criminal conduct be reported to the district attorney.

Earlier this month, the Express reported that Alameda County prosecutors learned of Guap's exploitation from the media, not from OPD.

But Task 28 of the Negotiated Settlement Agreement and OPD General Order M-04.1 both require Oakland commanders to notify the Alameda County DA via email whenever there is reasonable suspicion that an officer may have committed a felony or serious misdemeanor.

This requirement is so specific that OPD is even instructed to use a specific subject line for these emails — "criminal misconduct allegation."

The single email fulfilling OPD's requirement to notify the District Attorney of suspected crimes by officers.
  • The single email fulfilling OPD's requirement to notify the District Attorney of suspected crimes by officers.
The Express filed a California Public Records Act request for all emails with this subject line between September 1, 2015, through this year. The Alameda County DA's office released only one email, from OPD Captain Kirk Coleman, dated August 24, 2016.

Coleman's email was sent eleven months after a suicide note left by O'Brien, which made OPD commanders aware of the possibility of misconduct involving Guap and several officers. It also came three months after Schaaf claimed to have personally notified O'Malley about the alleged sexual misconduct.

John Burris, one of the plaintiffs attorneys in the Riders case that underpins Oakland's settlement agreement, said OPD's apparent failure to abide, and their own general orders, is a matter of concern.

"It appears there are a number of times this notification should have been made in the last year, and weren't," he said.

Independent court monitor Robert Warshaw, however, hasn't addressed this matter. His latest report to the court, released on September 12, included no comments on whether there was a failure to report suspected criminal misconduct.

Warshaw did not respond to the Express' requests to discuss this issue.

Burris acknowledged those concerns, noting that he and co-counsel Jim Chanin have long been disturbed by the downward direction of discipline within OPD over the years.

"We've been concerned about this since the Riders — what about the actions of the supervisors, of the command staff?" Burris asked.

City of Berkeley Seeks Dismissal of Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Kayla Moore Case

by H. Graph Massara
Fri, Sep 23, 2016 at 6:09 PM

Members of the Bay Area's queer and trans community gathered Friday morning in solidarity with the family of Kayla Moore, the 41-year-old Black transgender woman with paranoid schizophrenia who died while in custody of the Berkeley police in 2013. The coroner said Moore died of cardiac arrest.

In the years since, a coalition led by Moore's sister, Maria Moore, has campaigned for expanded funding of mental health care resources. Arthur Moore, Kayla’s father, has sued the city of Berkeley for wrongful death.

At a hearing in San Francisco Friday morning the city asked a judge to throw out the case. The judge is expected to rule on the motion to dismiss at a later date. The next hearing in the case is scheduled for October 17, but a ruling could be issued sooner. Though it was not the resolution she was hoping for, Maria Moore said that at least the hearing didn’t end with an outright dismissal.

"There’s still a glimmer of hope," she added.

There are still several points of contention about what exactly happened to Kayla Moore the night she died, including whether officers' attempts to restrain Moore may have cut off her airway or aggravated an underlying heart condition. Though the city has alleged Moore illegally resisted arrest, and that drugs in her system played a key role in her death, Arthur Moore’s attorney, Adante Pointer, compared her struggling against the officers to the thrashing of a fish out of water.

"It's not that she isn’t in compliance [with the officers’ orders]," he said during the hearing. "She is dealing with the fact that she can't breathe."

Pointer said he feels confident about the case moving forward, and that it’s one a jury should decide.

Prior to the hearing, supporters of Moore's family held hands outside the Phillip Burton Federal Building. Maria Moore read a poem by Kayla, entitled "In My Outer Skin."

Elena Vera, a self-identified transgender woman of color who attended the hearing, said she didn’t know Moore personally, but felt they were part of the same community.

"The police want you and I to believe (that) a body like Kayla Moore's is not worth protecting or serving," she said. "She was someone worth love. She was someone worth remembering."

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson Hit in Face with Pie at Event, Assaults Protester in 'Bloody' Scene

by Nick Miller
Wed, Sep 21, 2016 at 9:02 PM

Mayor Kevin Johnson of Sacramento.
  • Mayor Kevin Johnson of Sacramento.
Sacramento Mayor, former NBA star, and UC Berkeley standout Kevin Johnson was hit in the face with a pie on Thursday evening at a farm-to-table dinner event — then multiple sources say he tackled and assaulted the protester in a "bloody" brawl.

During the meal, a protester approached mayor and tagged him in the face with a store-bought coconut cream pie.

Stunned, the mayor allegedly tackled the protester and punched him "repeatedly," more than half a dozen times, landing "five to 10" blows, according to various witnesses.

One witness described it as a "bloody pulp." Other witnesses say that the pie-thrower was hit multiple times in the face and will definitely need stitches, and that there was visible blood. Ambulances and fire department arrived at the scene.

A day later, Sacramento Magazine published four photos from the incident, including the following:

  • Philippe Ngabonziza
The assailant was 32-year-old Sean Thompson, who was arrested on charges of felony assault of a public official and misdemeanor battery on school property. He's being held on $100,000 bail.

Booking photo of Sean Thompson, who reportedly assaulted Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson with a pie — then was punched repeatedly by Johnson, according to multiple witnesses. - SACRAMENTO POLICE DEPARTMENT
  • Sacramento Police Department
  • Booking photo of Sean Thompson, who reportedly assaulted Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson with a pie — then was punched repeatedly by Johnson, according to multiple witnesses.

A spokesman with the Sacramento Police Department confirmed that there was “some sort of physical altercation” between the suspect and the mayor, which occurred at around 6:45 p.m. on Thursday.

“The mayor did strike the suspect after he was assaulted,” spokesman Sgt. Bryce Heinlein told the Express. He could not confirm whether Johnson tackled Thompson.

He said Thompson was transported to a local hospital for treatment after the incident. He was booked at midnight.

The spokesperson did not know whether the mayor was injured or not. Johnson was questioned after the incident.

From county jail, Thompson told a reporter with The Sacramento Bee on Thursday afternoon that Johnson "punched [him] in the face at least two times."

"I don't think that was an appropriate response to a pie to the face," he told the Bee.

The dinner was a celebration of Sacramento's Farm-to-Fork week, held at the Edible Garden at Johnson's alma mater, Sacramento High School, a charter school under the St. HOPE umbrella. Alice Waters of Chez Panisse has helped with projects at this garden in the past.

There were nearly 200 in attendance at the dinner, including a few dozen high-school students, according to sources. This event was also attended by some of the city's top restaurateurs.

Erika Bjork, who works for the Sacramento Republic FC soccer team, attended on behalf of the team and described the dinner was an "intimate" experience. She was seated near the mayor, who was chatting with guests at her table, when the incident occurred.

She described the attack on the mayor as "a shocking assault," and that Thompson did not announce himself before hitting Johnson in the face with the pie.

“Most of us didn’t didn’t even realize it was a pie until after, when I could see that there was a pie on the ground," she told the Express.  “There was no way, based on anything I saw, that this could be interpreted as a practical joke.”

She describe the mayor as "in shock" after he was hit.

Eventually, a security guard and an officer restrained Thompson, who remained handcuffed on the ground until police arrived.

After the pie attack, sources say Johnson was given a change of clothes and addressed the audience at a podium, apologizing, and receiving applause.

Johnson even brought UFC fighter Urijah Faber, who was in attendance, up to the podium and joked about the assault.

Faber later told a Sacramento TV station that the pie-thrower was "bloodied up" after the incident.

Protesters occasionally have dogged Johnson on the heels of sexual-misconduct allegations that resurfaced last year. He was booed at a Hillary Clinton event at Sacramento City College, for instance.

The Express reached out to the mayor's chief of staff to discuss the incident, but she did not respond. The mayor's chief of staff told The Sacramento Bee "the mayor was assaulted."

“He is home with his family. ... The whole thing is just shocking," she told the Bee.

Police released a booking photo of Thomps
Sean Thompson, center, shown at an Occupy Sacramento protest in 2011. He was arrested multiple times during these actions at Cesar Chavez Plaza. - PHOTO BY DON BUTTON
  • Sean Thompson, center, shown at an Occupy Sacramento protest in 2011. He was arrested multiple times during these actions at Cesar Chavez Plaza.
on early Thursday morning. The assailant has cuts, bruises and dried blood on his face — and sutures next to his left eye.

The mayor's office released a statement on Thursday morning, saying that Johnson "reacted in self-defense like most people do when attacked by an unknown object."

Thompson was at one time an activist with the Occupy Sacramento movement. He was arrested multiple times in 2011 during the Occupy Sacramento protests at Cesar Chavez Plaza (see photo, right).

The "pie-thrower" has engaged Johnson in the past during city council meetings. In 2011, Thompson spoke at council and turned his back on Johnson. Tensions were apparently high at this meeting, and three SPD officers moved toward him — but Johnson waived them off.

Thompson's arraignment is scheduled for Friday, September 23, at 1:30 p.m.

There is precedent for convictions involving attacks on public officials with pie. In 1999, three protesters were convicted of battery for hitting then-S.F. Mayor Willie Brown with pies.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Sex Worker Advocates Say Oakland's Prostitution Snitch Web Site Does More Harm Than Good

by Darwin BondGraham
Tue, Sep 20, 2016 at 6:07 PM

Last week, the Alameda County District Attorney's office and the City of Oakland unveiled, a web site for ratting on suspected sex-worker clients to the Oakland police. Users can snap photographs of people or vehicles suspected of solicitation and send them instantly from their cell phones. The police then use this information to generate and mail a "Dear John" letter to the home addresses of people accused of seeking out a sex worker.

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf praised the tool, calling it "an example of the collaboration needed to tackle social problems."

But sex workers, human-rights advocates, and civil-liberty watchdogs say the website might do more harm that good.

Tara Burns, a sex worker from Alaska, said the idea behind the website is to target clients, but that "research shows that doing this actually makes conditions much worse for sex workers, and much more dangerous," she explained

Burns said the new website applies the "Nordic Model" of regulation, under which sex workers themselves aren't targeted by law enforcement, but their clients are arrested, criminally charged, and shamed.

According to Burns, when customers are aggressively targeted by law enforcement, it increases the likelihood that sex workers will have to interact with unfamiliar clients or take other risks that expose them to violence.

Cynthia Chandler, a human-rights attorney who lives in San Leandro, called the new website "deplorable," and said the city should take it down.

"This turns neighbors against neighbors and recruits people to become spies for the police," she said. "It’s not healthy for these communities."

The attorney said the website will likely have a negative impact on lower-income people and non-white sex workers. "When it comes to people who work on the street, it's disproportionately people working for economic survival, who don't have resources to work indoors, and they’re disproportionately going to be people of color," she said.
Chandler added that the website also could defame innocent civilians. "If you're living in an economically depressed community and you go up to a car your friend is driving to chat with them, you run the risk of being reported through this program," she said. is just the latest attempt in OPD and Alameda County DA's effort to identify and eliminate sex-industry clients, especially those who solicit on "The Tracks" — outdoor locations such as East 14th Street from the San Antonio neighborhood to the San Leandro border.

In 2013, OPD asked residents and business owners in The Tracks to fill out forms anytime they suspected someone of soliciting. Based on these reports, OPD sent "Dear John" letters to the registered addresses of vehicle owners warning them that their car was spotted in an area known for prostitution.

Oakland police captain Ricardo Orozco helped start the Dear John program. After he retired in 2015, Orozco was hired as an inspector by Alameda DA — but he was subsequently fired after being identified as one of the officers who allegedly solicited sex from the exploited teenager "Celeste Guap."

Other Oakland cops have been implicated in incidents where sex workers were exploited.

A "Dear John" report form submitted to the Oakland police in 2014.
  • A "Dear John" report form submitted to the Oakland police in 2014.
In 2014, the Express obtained copies of Oakland's Dear John reports and Dear John letters, which included the un-redacted license plate numbers of vehicles accused of being involved in purchasing sex, as well as descriptions of suspected johns and sex workers. The Oakland police have also publicly released license plate numbers in reports, even though the owner of the vehicle wasn’t convicted of a crime in many instances.

It's unclear what privacy protections will be used when transmitting the reports, or when handling the data gathered by the new website.

Brian Hofer, chairman of Oakland's Privacy Commission, said the program could lead to civil-rights and due-process violations for those accused of solicitation.

"I understand the intent to reduce demand," Hofer said. "But there are no studies that show this public-shaming method works to achieve that goal."

Burns said the website also could be misused. "There’s definitely a lot of room for people who are just angry at someone else to use that website to report them," she said.

Part of the reason some Oaklanders object to the sex-work industry is that many customers drive in from outside of the city in search of services. According to data collected by OPD, of the 163 "johns" arrested in 2015, 118 of them live outside of Oakland. In 2016, 52 of the 82 arrested johns were not Oakland residents.

Even the mayor stated that a priority is to prevent outsiders from cruising in Oakland. "We know we have a long way to go, but will allow us to let sex buyers know that it is not acceptable to come to our city to purchase sex," Mayor Schaaf said in a press statement last week.

Lt. Jill Encinias of OPD told The New York Times last week that reporting johns will reduce the number of customers seeking sex in Oakland: "We really need to attack this problem from all sides. We need to start focusing on the demand."
The website is part of a larger CEASE Initiative (Cities Empowered Against Sexual Exploitation), a nationwide campaign to reduce demand for commercial sex, which was endorsed by the Oakland City Council last year. To join the CEASE, cities such as Oakland also ratified a statement that claimed that "the illegal commercial sex industry is inherently harmful" and that "holding buyers accountable is essential to change cultural behaviors and norms."

But the department's own data shows that the people most impacted by Oakland's enforcement strategy are adult female sex workers, not their clients.

In 2015, Oakland made 660 arrests in sting operations targeting the sex-work industry — 429, or 65 percent, were adult women.

OPD, the Alameda County DA, and other regional law-enforcement agencies also have branded operations targeting sex workers as "human trafficking intervention." These agencies claim today that their primary focus is rescuing commercially exploited minors and punishing pimps.

Even so, law-enforcement data shows that adult female sex workers are the most frequently arrested group, followed by their adult male clients. Pimps are rarely arrested and successfully prosecuted, and rescued juveniles make up a small number of the people that officers encounter during vice operations.

So far this year, adult women comprised 305 of the 454 people arrested by OPD during "human trafficking intervention efforts." Adult johns make up another 25 percent. Only twelve pimps have been arrested, while just thirty minors were rescued.

Chandler said the best way to reduce the number of sexually exploited children, and the number of adults working in the sex industry, is not to spy on them and their clients, or threaten them with public shaming, but instead to provide workers with other opportunities to earn a living.

"We need to think about systemic solutions," she said. "If there are people on the street being exploited, or who aren't [consenting] to engage in sex work, they need more economic opportunities, more education, housing, and their basic needs fulfilled.

"We need to stop wasting our time on efforts like these."

Monday, September 19, 2016

Town Business: New Renter Protections; New Privacy Commissioners; Solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux

by Darwin BondGraham
Mon, Sep 19, 2016 at 7:05 AM

New Renter Protections: The really big proposals to change Oakland's landlord tenant laws are on the November ballot as Measure JJ, the "Renter Protection Act." We'll write more about this before you go to the polls.

In the meantime, several city council members are trying to tweak some of Oakland's housing laws. On Tuesday night Dan Kalb, Lynette Gibson McElhaney, and Abel Guillen's package of landlord-tenant laws is up for discussion. The three councilmembers are proposing the following:

1. Requiring landlords who move into a two or three unit apartment building to prove they've lived there for at least two years before they can exempt their building from rent control. Currently it's one year. This is an important shift because owner move-in evictions are sometimes used by landlords to remove tenants who are otherwise protected by rent control and just cause. After getting rid of the older tenants, a landlord can increase rent on the units by as much as they want.

2. Require landlords who want to increase rent by more than the consumer price index-adjusted amount to petition the rent board for permission to do so. Currently landlords can do whatever they want, and it's up to a tenant to know their rights and file a petition within 60 days if they think their landlord has increased their rent by more than the allowable amount which is set each year by the rent board, and which can only be exceeded under special circumstances. The new rules being proposed by Kalb, McElhaney, and Guillen would also increase the amount of time a tenant has to petition the rent board from 60 to 90 days.

The councilmembers’ proposal would also prevent landlords from "gold-plating" housing units with fancy, unnecessary improvements to drive up the rental price, and require that landlords spread the costs of capital improvements over the useful life of the improvement, rather than pass the expense on in one or several large rent increases.

New Privacy Commissioners: Mayor Libby Schaaf and Councilmember Larry Reid are each making an appointment to the Oakland Privacy Commission.

Schaaf's appointee is UC Berkeley Associate Professor at the School of Information Deirdre Mulligan. With a degree from Georgetown University, dozens of publications, roles advising global companies like Intel and Microsoft, Mulligan is a heavy hitter in some of the exact fields that the city's new privacy commission will have to grapple with.

Reid's appointee is Robert Oliver, an executive of two companies that run residential treatment programs. Oliver also used to work as an Oakland police officer and is knowledgeable about the department.

Standing Rock Sioux: The Standing Rock Sioux have been leading a fight against the construction of a 1,100 mile oil pipeline that will cross 209 rivers and creeks, and impact sacred tribal territory. The City of Oakland is offering the Standing Rock Sioux its official support. 

"The City of Oakland, which sits on native lands of the Ohlone Tribe, continues to appreciate diversity of its community, their culture, and beliefs," reads a staff report accompanying the resolution. Oakland's resolution supporting the Standing Rock Sioux would notify the federal government that the city doesn't want the Dakota Access Pipeline built.

The Oakland City Council recently banned the storage and handling of coal inside the city, and has previously passed resolutions against oil trains and other fossil fuels projects.

Correction: the original version of this story stated that the Oakland city council stripped the gold-plating and useful life capital improvement cost sections from the ordinance they’re considering tomorrow. The council in fact retained these parts of the legislation. Also, the council will vote on a requirement that landlords petition to increase rent above the CPI-adjusted amount, not above five percent.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Thirteen Unlucky Observations from Oakland Raiders Disappointing Home Loss to Atlanta

by Nick Miller
Sun, Sep 18, 2016 at 5:04 PM

Jack Del Rio is coaching like the Raiders are already in Las Vegas.

This week, "Black Jack Del Rio" made another dice-roll call during a crucial moment in the game. The Raiders found themselves fourth and goal on the two-yard line, in the final quarter — and Del Rio gave his offense the green light to go for it.

And, just like last week, the coach was rewarded with a Derek Carr-to-Michael Crabtree strike. This touchdown notched Sunday's game against the Atlanta Falcons at a 21-21 tie with 12 minutes remaining.

And then it all fell apart.

The Raiders much-hyped defense had zero answer for Atlanta's run-pass attack, which racked up 531 total yards in its 35-28 road victory in Oakland.

Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman bruised the Raiders front line for a combined 139 rushing yards. Matt Ryan went air for 396. The Falcons owned the middle of the field, with Ryan repeatedly finding Jacob Tamme and Julio Jones on slant routes.

The Falcons also got the big breaks. In the fourth quarter, on third and goal, a Ryan pass was deflected, only to land in wideout Justin Hardy's hands, which put Atlanta up 35-21.

The Raiders didn't go down quiet, however, and clawed within seven. But the defense again couldn't lock in one single stop, and the Falcons converted a first down to seal the victory.

A few thoughts:

1. Raiders came out the gate cold, racking up just 33 yards of offense in the first quarter and an underwhelming 167 by the half. That's not going to cut it at home. Coordinator Bill Musgrave's schemes are again too predictable this year, and his play calling too timid early in the game.

2. Derek Carr tossed three TDs and didn't turn the ball over, but he also didn't move the ball deep. Need those big plays.

3. I actually embrace the Raiders RB-by-committee, and the guys put up a varied attack on the ground, going for 155 yards. Latavius Murray had a solid game, with 101 total yards and a TD.

4. The defense was completely lost all day, giving up multiple third-and-long conversions and a significant number of yards on the ground, including 53 yards in the opening fifteen minutes. They also clearly can't defend the middle, and teams are certainly going to pick at this weakness.

5. Amari Cooper was quiet (four catches, 55 yards), except for a fantastic 25-yard aerial grab in the second quarter.

6. The Raider defense was devoid of a meaningful pass rush. Part of this was because Matt Ryan would drop back deep, in some cases 15 yards. But mostly it was his quick release on cutting routes, such as the 21-yard slant pass to Julio Jones in the second: Jones practically skipped into the end zone and put the Falcons up 10-7.

7. Back to that Raiders first half: It was ugly, and reminiscent of some of the worst Raiders teams in the past ten years. They were fortunate to be down only 13-7.  (They could have only trailed by three points, were it not a muffed field-goal attempt by Sebastian Janikowski — granted, from 58-yards.)

8. The only turnover of the day for both teams was when David Amerson made a clutch pick in his own end zone, to stave off another surging Atlanta drive. This was a much-needed moment for the Raider secondary — but it was fleeting.

9. This game was very Vegas. In addition to the Del Rio call and the ridiculous Ryan TD pass to Hardy, there were also some cirque de soleil catches that converted third downs for the Falcons.

10. File under bad calls: Carr hit Cooper for a huge 70-ish yard touchdown, but it was taken back, because the official said No. 89 went out of bounds. Upon replay, however, it was clear that he did not intentionally go out of bounds, but was pushed by a defender. This non-call, non-TD changed the game.

11. But no matter: Raiders are not a good team. Yet. They still need a pass rush (shockingly), a secondary that doesn't give up big plays (that 48-yarder to Jones in crunch time!), and they absolutely must do better to curb opponent's run attack.

12. Giving up 35 points at home — you'll never win.

13. It's worth noting that, before the game, Raider Nation guitarist Craig Chaquico performed one of the more "interesting" national anthem renditions I've ever seen. Very Jimi Hendrix:

No players took a knee during the anthem, at least from my view in the press box.

Friday, September 16, 2016

UC Berkeley Suspends Controversial Israel-Palestine Course Amid Complaints

by H. Graph Massara
Fri, Sep 16, 2016 at 3:27 PM

A flier used to promote a contentious course on Palestine, which administrators suspended this week.
  • A flier used to promote a contentious course on Palestine, which administrators suspended this week.

UC Berkeley administrators suspended a student-run course on Palestine this week amid accusations that it was politically one-sided and inappropriate.

But its removal led some students to question the campus’ commitment to academic freedom within the student-led course program known as DeCal.

The one-unit course, led by student Paul Hadweh and sponsored by Ethnic Studies professor Hatem Bazian, was titled "Palestine: A Settler Colonial Analysis."

An online description said it would have focused on “key historical developments that have taken place in Palestine from the 1880s to the present, through the lens of settler colonialism." A flier advertising the class (see above) also stated that the course would "explore the possibilities of a decolonized Palestine."

Forty-three organizations submitted a letter of complaint to Chancellor Nicholas Dirks this past Tuesday, alleging that course materials included anti-Israel bias and violated the university’s ban on classes promoting “political indoctrination.” The course was suspended that same day.

The university says that the course didn't meet academic standards and didn't comply with review procedures.

Josh Woznica is president of Bears for Israel, one of the groups who signed the complaint. He said there are places for this type of discussion. “But when it’s this extreme and comes in an academic context … it’s not an appropriate thing for [UC Berkeley] to officially offer for academic credit,” he said. 

Hadweh’s course, however, had generated significant student interest. He said that 31 students showed up for what was originally a 24-seat class.

Those who did manage to get in published an open letter on Thursday, which decried the suspension, calling it “discriminatory and a violation of (their) academic freedom.”

Jewish Voice for Peace, an Israel-Palestine peace advocacy group, has also begun circulating an online petition to reinstate the course. It has been signed by several prominent UC Berkeley faculty members, among others.

Cristian Alejandre, who had enrolled in the class, said he felt there is a broader “attempt to censor or erase Palestine within academia,” and found the idea of taking a UC Berkeley class on the subject “spectacular.”

“(But it) was a very short-lived opportunity,” he added.

Hadweh rejected criticisms that his class curriculum and materials amounted to “indoctrination,” or were inappropriate because they were critical of the state of Israel.

He said he hopes to reinstate the class — and to receive an apology from the university.

“This course is more about asking questions than providing answers,” Hadweh said in a statement released by he and an attorney on Wednesday. “I think it would be valuable to study this and clearly many of my peers at UC Berkeley do too.”

There are specific requirements for a student-run course at UC Berkeley to receive approval. Each DeCal course must be sponsored by a member of faculty, and green-lit by both the relevant campus department chairperson and also an Academic Senate committee.

Hadweh maintains that these requirements were satisfied. He added that administrators did not discuss any concerns with him before pulling the course.

But campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof said that the course needed to be vetted by a dean, as well. 

But based on DeCal's website, it is unclear as to whether dean approval is actually needed for all classes.

Carla Hesse, executive dean of the College of Letters and Science, wrote in an email, which Mogulof shared with the Express, that Hadweh’s class “did not undergo required academic review.”

According to its website, the DeCal program is meant to allow students to teach their peers about a wide variety of subjects, “many of which are not addressed in the traditional curriculum.” Popular selections include classes on everything from female sexuality to Pokemon. Others touch on more topical or political themes, such as prison reform.

Other UC campuses have comparable student-led educational programs. Last year, UC Riverside officials received similar complaints about a student-led class at that campus, originally titled "Palestine & Israel: Settler-Colonialism and Apartheid." After administrators reviewed the class, it was given a revised title, "Palestine Voices," and allowed to proceed.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Richmond Rent Increase and Eviction Moratorium Blocked by Mayor Tom Butt and Two Councilmembers

by Darwin BondGraham
Wed, Sep 14, 2016 at 11:06 AM

A proposed 45-day moratorium on rent increases and evictions to protect Richmond renters failed to pass last night after Mayor Tom Butt and councilmembers Nathaniel Bates and Vinay Pimplé voted against it. The emergency law required a supermajority vote, at least six of the seven councilmembers and mayor, to pass.

Similar moratoriums have been implemented in Oakland and Alameda to slow the displacement of low-income tenants due to drastically rising rents.

Councilmember Gayle McLaughlin, the sponsor of the moratorium, said it was necessary to stem evictions in advance of the November elections when Richmond voters will decide whether or not to enact permanent rent control and just cause eviction protections.

Multiple tenants told the council last night that their landlords seem to be preemptively evicting them before the November vote so as to be able to raise rents to the maximum amount, even if the new renter protections are approved.

"I question the motives of why they're putting us out right before the ballot," said Vincent Justin, a Richmond renter who told the council he was recently served with an eviction notice and hasn't been able to find a new apartment he can afford.

"Please implement this urgent moratorium to give us a little more time," pleaded Sharon Brown, a 65 year-old renter, who said she moved from Oakland a few years ago because it became unaffordable. In Richmond, she found a church to join and started feeling like the city was her home, but she was recently served by her landlord with a 60-day notice to move out for no cause.

Jill Broadhurst, director of the East Bay Rental Housing Association, a landlord's group, said that if Richmond passes rent control many landlords might not be able to afford simple upgrades like patching a roof. As a result, the city's housing stock will decline in quality, she claimed.

"Anecdotes, while compelling, do not constitute an emergency," Broadhurst said in response to the testimony of dozen-plus tenants like Brown and Justin who told the council about their recent evictions.

Just before the vote, Mayor Tom Butt objected to the moratorium and said that rent control was like "throwing water on a grease fire."

"It's a supply and demand problem," said Butt, who also accused several members of the city council of blocking housing construction.

"Rent control will slow down gentrification," countered McLaughlin.

Councilmember Jael Myrick pointed out that both Alameda and Oakland have passed similar moratoriums. "This is not a radical thing," he said.

But when the vote came, Butt, Bates, and Pimplé refused to change their long-standing positions against rent control and eviction protections.

Bates even called the moratorium a "charade," accusing his fellow councilmembers and tenants of "interrupting the tranquility of the city" by continuing to press for renter protections after several previous failed efforts.

One member of the audience shouted back at Bates, "this is a democracy, you clown!"

The meeting ended with dozens of Richmond residents chanting "shame" after the vote as Butt, Bates, and Pimplé exited the room.

Councilmember Jovanka Beckles called her three colleagues "disgusting."

Correction: the original version of this story erroneously stated that there are nine Richmond city councilmembers. There are in fact six and the mayor.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Richmond Police Sex-Crime Scandal Investigation Finds Officers Didn't Break the Law

by Darwin BondGraham and Ali Winston
Mon, Sep 12, 2016 at 5:49 PM

An internal Richmond Police Department investigation into sexual misconduct by multiple officers concluded today. In a public report summarizing the investigation, Richmond Chief Allwyn Brown wrote that officers from his department engaged in sexual misconduct and other wrongdoing, and that he will terminate some and recommend counseling for others.

But the report doesn't name any officers who will be disciplined, or say how many face termination or suspension. Eleven current and former officers were investigated by Richmond's Office of Professional Accountability.

The investigation began after news media contacted RPD with evidence that some of its officers had sexually exploited a teenager, known as Celeste Guap, who reportedly was abused by more than thirty Bay Area officers. Some allegedly committed statutory rape against her when she was seventeen. Others violated numerous laws and department rules.

Last week, Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley announced she intends to charge seven East Bay officers with crimes varying from statutory rape to illegal use of a police computer system. O'Malley didn't name any Richmond police officers among those she intends to prosecute.

According to Brown, none of his officers broke any laws. He wrote that the misconduct uncovered constituted "[I]ndividual, unconnected, non-criminal engagements and other activities that violate multiple Department policies and the professional Code of Ethics on the part of several RPD officers."

Brown also used his report to accuse unknown parties of violating the Public Safety Officers' Procedural Bill of Rights Act, a state law that shields the personnel records of cops from public scrutiny. "The names of five (5) RPD officers subject to our investigation have already been leaked, and then outed by the news media on July 30, 2016," Brown wrote. He said that violation of this law is punishable by a $25,000 fine.

The Express first reported on RPD officers misconduct on that date

No one leaked the names of Richmond cops to the Express. Instead, reporting was informed by interviews with Guap, and information from social media, which was used to identify the police officers who allegedly solicited her for sex.

Brown also used his report to try to deflect criticism that his department shipped Guap out of state at exactly the same time it was investigating eleven of its own cops for misconduct.

"Representations that we 'sent' this teenage witness away or had her 'removed' to Florida distort reality," Brown wrote. "We found no conspiracies."

But Brown admitted in the report that his department's Domestic and Sexual Violence Unit did work to secure state Victims Compensation Program funds to pay for Guap's plane ticket to Florida, and to pay for the rehab center, where she was arrested last week after allegedly biting a security guard.

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