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What is probably most important is that evidence was excluded about the ongoing culture of alcohol and violence that has become a part of fraternity row, not just in Berkeley, but also around the nation. The US Department of Health identifies alcohol as a special health risk in colleges.
On the night he died, Chris Wooten had an alcohol blood level of .21, far beyond the level that causes intoxication. The corner's report indicated he had thirty bruises on his body from other fights and on his MYSPACE blog he boasted about how he and his frat brothers had outnumbered another young man in an earlier incident and ground his face into the sidewalk while kicking his ribs and head.
This culture of alcohol abuse and violence has led to a pending class action lawsuit against the fraternities at UC Berkeley filed by the South of Campus Neighborhood Association. One neighbor has security surveillance videotapes of frats breaking into his house and of regular violence in the area posted on his web site. Information about the many neighbors who have suffered from fraternity unruliness was also not allowed, although it was essential to understanding the social problems that led to the attack on Andrew and to Chris's death.
California law gives each of us the right to self-defense. The community does not benefit when all the blame is placed on just one person — my son Andrew — and everyone else is absolved of responsibility.
The law allows self-defense because people have the right to protect themselves when they are attacked and outnumbered ten against two by drunk, aggressive, and violent young men. Most of those convicted of second degree never receive parole.
I have great compassion for the Wooten family and the loss of their child, which is probably the greatest loss any human being can experience. Further compounding this tragedy is the injustice dealt to my son. If Andrew had not defended himself he could very well be on life support or dead himself.
Ellen Hoeft-Edenfield, Berkeley
Just what California needs; budget cuts that hurt millions of people and don't save any money! The governor wants drastic reductions in In-Home Support services, Adult Day Health Care, and mental health programs. He'll "save" a billion dollars or so. But these programs enable people to keep living at home. Without them, thousands of disabled people will require nursing homes and cost Medi-Cal billions more!
Instead of cutting highly cost-effective programs, we need to tax the rich and the oil companies to pay for needed services. Or we could cut the prison budget by releasing non-violent offenders. Anything is better than the governor's stupid and cruel plan. Contact the governor and your state representatives now! And drop by the Arnieville camp at Adeline and Russell and help them protest these cuts.
David Spero, San Francisco
Cell Phones and Cancer
Too bad that San Francisco's new Right-to-Know Law has prompted the wireless industry to boycott the city. Two important cell-phone studies that received financing from wireless corporations certainly justify the Right-to-Know Law enacted by San Francisco's Board of Supervisors. T-Mobile, which is among the nation's largest wireless companies, commissioned a study with a highly reputable independent research institute, on the health impact of cell phone emissions. The study concluded, "Given the results of the present epidemiological studies, it can be concluded that electromagnetic fields with frequencies in the mobile telecommunications range do play a role in the development of cancer."
The thirteen-country inter-phone study that was just released was heavily biased in favor of the industry, which paid about half the costs. Among its many serious limitations, children and young adults under thirty, who are particularly vulnerable to electromagnetic emissions, were excluded from the study. Nevertheless, the research found that the heaviest cell phone users were 40 percent more likely, on average, to be diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor.
Clearly, these studies were not conducted by researchers with an ax to grind against cell phones. Moreover, when we look at many other carefully designed research studies that are completely independent, the results are disturbing.
Harry Brill, El Cerrito
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