Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Alameda All Coked Up

by Lauren Gard
Wed, Apr 25, 2007 at 4:54 PM

What do 20 tons, or 42,845 pounds, of cocaine look like? U.S. Coast Guard officials and gun-toting agents from the Drug Enforcement Agency found out yesterday when the Coast Guard unloaded the record-busting cargo in Alameda, reported MediaNews. The coke, seized last month from a Panamanian freighter, was photographed stashed in 765 plastic bags and boasts a street value of $300 million. (Were the coke distributed among Alameda's approximately 72,000 residents, each would walk away with 9.8 ounces, or about $42,000 worth.)

Reuters ( article included a curious detail in its brief sketch of the March 17 bust: "The Coast Guard ship had experienced mechanical difficulties during its mission and was running so low on water that the crew had stopped showering by the time of the March 17 raid, officials said. "'At the end of the day there is nothing like a good drug bust to lift everyone's spirit,'" said the ship's captain, Charlie Diaz. "We were, of course, elated."'

Charles DeMore, director of the San Francisco outpost of U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement told Reuters that the crew aboard the Panamanian fighter offered no resistance. "If you try to fight with the U.S. Coast Guard, you come out on the losing end. It would be futile," he said.

No doubt the funky aroma emanating from the Coast Guard crew's helped stop the bad guys in their tracks. Well done!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Farewell to Journalism Great David Halberstam

by Lauren Gard
Tue, Apr 24, 2007 at 4:54 PM

As has been widely reported, acclaimed journalist David Halberstam was killed yesterday morning in a three-car accident in Menlo Park. Halberstam, 73, gave a lecture at UC Berkeley Saturday night as part of the Graduate School of Journalism's annual alumni weekend, and was on his way to conduct an interview for an upcoming book when the collision occurred. Today, local papers have revealed a few details about the J-school student who had been driving the car.

J-school dean Orville Schell told the SF Chronicle that Halberstam had offered "unique compensation" for a student willing to take the author to Mountain View. In an e-mail to students, the school wrote: "He said he'll give you a private seminar on the way back. Details are vague, but this could be a really cool opportunity."

First-year Kevin Jones "seized on that chance to have some face time with a journalistic icon," his wife, Lily Jones, told the Chron. "He just wanted to get a chance to talk to somebody that he thought was interesting. He doesn't have class on Mondays, and he thought this would be great opportunity."

The San Jose Mercury News spoke last night with Kevin Jones, who was treated at Stanford Hospital for a punctured lung and has been released. After the crash, said Jones, he could tell that Halberstam's heart was pumping, though the elder man didn't reply when Jones asked if he was okay. "It's like the ultimate failure, I had one easy thing to do - drive this man to his interview and I couldn't even do that," Jones told the paper. "I'm still crying. I feel like my life's crumbling around me."

From the many J-school graduates here at the Express, our thoughts are with the school community and with Halberstam's friends and family.

VA to Give Pentacles for Fallen Wiccan Soldiers

by Kathleen Richards
Tue, Apr 24, 2007 at 4:54 PM

In what's being hailed as a victory for followers of Wicca, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has added the pentacle to the list of approved emblems allowed in national cemeteries and on government-issued headstones of fallen soldiers, according to an article on The decision is the result of a settlement between the VA and a broad coalition of organizations and individuals, who initiated the fight more than nine years ago. Selena Fox, a Wiccan high priestess and founder of Lady Liberty League, says eleven families are waiting for grave markers with the pentacle for their deceased loved ones.

As the Express previously reported, Wicca, the biggest subgroup under Paganism, has grown into one of the top four faith groups in the U.S., drawing between 300,000 and 1.2 million followers. While tolerance toward the religion is growing, many still face discrimination.

"This settlement has forced the Bush Administration into acknowledging that there are no second class religions in America," said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, which represented the Wiccans in the lawsuit.

The Wiccan pentacle is a five-pointed star, representing the earth, air, fire, water, and spirit. Currently, the VA recognizes 38 symbols for a wide variety of religions, including Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, Sufism Reoriented, Eckiankar, and the Japanese faith Seicho-No-Ie.

The full agreement reads as follows:

"Within 14 days from the execution of this Stipulation, VA will provide a headstone, marker, or memorial plaque (of a type suitable for placement in the relevant cemetery) inscribed with a Pentacle for Sgt. Patrick Stewart, PFC Jerome Birnbaum, PFC James Price, Abraham and Rosemary Kooiman and any other eligible individuals who have submitted complete applications for Pentacle-inscribed headstones, markers, or memorial plaques, and who have been identified before the execution of this Stipulation. VA will coordinate with the Department of the Army, which controls Arlington National Cemetery, to promptly order headstones, markers, or memorial plaques inscribed with a Pentacle for Abraham and Rosemary Kooiman and for any other eligible individuals who have submitted complete applications for Pentacle-inscribed headstones, markers, or memorial plaques, and who have been identified before the execution of this Stipulation."

The East Bay Today: April 24, 2007

Tue, Apr 24, 2007 at 4:54 PM

Today's Top Event: Photographer Nicole Beck's solo show When We Were Very Young is on display at California College of the Arts' North Gallery in Oakland.

Brainiac: Learn something new every day. Today's lecture: Jacob Needleman discusses his book Why Can't We Be Good? at Berkeley's First Congregational Church.

Is It Lunch Yet? Express food critic John Birdsall recommends: Genova Delicatessen in Oakland.

On the Town: Going out tonight? This is jazz truly off the beaten path: Howard Nett and Khalil Doak-Anthony play at Oakland's Cuckoo's Nest.

Hardly Working: You've got time. We know how to waste it. Check out The Mayor & The Hair.

Feed Us: Got an East Bay news tip, photo, video, or link we need to know about? E-mail us.

Thursday's Dining Out for Life Fuses Appetizers with Altruism

by John Birdsall
Tue, Apr 24, 2007 at 12:05 AM

Thursday may be the one day of the year when you can simultaneously stuff yourself and feel good - about others, that is. Some 60 local restaurants are participating in this year's fifth annual East Bay Dining Out for Life, pledging at least 25 percent of Thursday's take to Vital Life Services. The Oakland organization provides meals and other services to people with HIV/AIDs and other illnesses. Props to Spiesekammer in Alameda for upping its pledge to 30 percent, and to Unicorn Pan Asian Cuisine in Berkeley, Furenzu in Emeryville, and La Taza de Café in Oakland for promising 35 percent. Three Berkeley restaurants - Bui, Zatar, and Café Rouge have all pledged a hefty 50 percent. If you want to donate but can't make it out on Thursday, you can give directly via the Vital Life Services website. But hey, you might as well chow on steak frites while you're doing good. Check to see if your restaurant of choice is participating for breakfast, lunch, or dinner (or all three) and call for a rezzy.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Could the Spinach-Borne E. Coli Outbreak Have Been Prevented?

by Kara Platoni
Mon, Apr 23, 2007 at 4:54 PM

Remember the madness surrounding the E. coli outbreak that led to the California spinach recall last winter? Nearly 200 people got sick after eating spinach grown on the San Benito county farms of Mission Organics, and processed by Natural Selections LLC, which bags food for several well-known companies. (Dole, one of the labels effected by the tainted spinach, recently settled a lawsuit regarding the three deaths resulting from the outbreak. Other claims from people who became seriously ill are still outstanding.) Well, an article in today's Washington Post says that the FDA knew all about the Salinas Valley's E. coli problem, and in fact traced its roots back to at least 1995.

Quoth the Post:

The FDA has known even longer about illnesses among people who ate spinach and other greens from California's Salinas Valley, the source of outbreaks over the past six months that have killed three people and sickened more than 200 in 26 states. The subsequent recall was the largest ever for leafy vegetables.

In a letter sent to California growers in late 2005, [Robert] Brackett [director of the FDA's food safety program] wrote, "FDA is aware of 18 outbreaks of foodborne illness since 1995 caused by [E. coli bacteria] for which fresh or fresh-cut lettuce was implicated. . . . In one additional case, fresh-cut spinach was implicated. These 19 outbreaks account for approximately 409 reported cases of illness and two deaths."

"We know that there are still problems out in those fields," Brackett said in an interview last week. "We knew there had been a problem, but we never and probably still could not pinpoint where the problem was. We could have that capability, but not at this point."

The article also claims that as long ago as 2005 the FDA checked into the possibility of salmonella contamination at the Georgia ConAgra plant whose tainted products ended up prompting a peanut butter recall last August, but that the company refused to give inspectors the documentation they demanded, and that there was no follow-up from the FDA.

The East Bay Today: April 23, 2007

Mon, Apr 23, 2007 at 4:54 PM

Today's Top Event: Biologist and photographer Gerry Keenan's photo exhibit Transient Beauty is on display at the Lucky Ju Ju Pinball Art Gallery in Alameda.

Brainiac: Learn something new every day. Today's lecture: Felicia Luna Lemus and Aaron Petrovich discuss their new novels, Lemus' Like Son and Petrovich's The Session at Cody's Fourth Street in Berkeley.

Is It Lunch Yet? Express food critic John Birdsall recommends: Christopher's Nothing Fancy Cafe in Albany.

On the Town: Going out tonight? Let your inner diva shine at the End Zone's karaoke night, hosted by Diva Dee.

Hardly Working: You've got time. We know how to waste it. Check out Songs to Wear Pants To.

Feed Us: Got an East Bay news tip, photo, video, or link we need to know about? E-mail us.

Woodfin Manager Says Eviction Warranted

by Lauren Gard
Mon, Apr 23, 2007 at 4:54 PM

On Friday we blogged about a family being evicted from the Woodfin Suites hotel, where they've been living for nearly three years following the discovery of water leaks and mold in their nearby condo. In an e-mail sent to the Express over the weekend, and excerpted below, general manager Hugh MacIntosh explained that Juanita Carroll Young, her husband and her daughter have been sent packing as a result of Young's activism on behalf of hotel housekeepers petitioning for higher wages:

Every retail, foodservice or hospitality business enjoys the right to refuse service to patrons who cause a disturbance, who hassle or annoy other customers, or who otherwise aim to disrupt an establishment's business operations.

For months now, Ms. Young has written and sent disparaging letters about our hotel to all Emeryville residents, spoken ill of us to her fellow guests, and even maintained a blog critical of our people and facility. We have done our best to accommodate her as we would any other valued guest during her long stay with us, but at this point, we simply feel it would be best if she were to seek lodging elsewhere.

We have given her adequate notice and plenty of time to make alternative arrangements. We have also verified with her insurance company that she would be able to move to another nearby hotel.

We at Woodfin regret that the situation has deteriorated to this point, but we stand behind our decision.

The Oakland Tribune covered the story today, revealing several specific actions Young has reportedly taken against the hotel. MacIntosh told the Trib that, "She also has approached clients staying at Woodfin and local businesses who use the hotel and urged them to sever their business ties. ... Juanita is unfortunately trying to do whatever she can to destroy our business."

The article provoked some unabashedly nasty online comments from readers, including these two:

"This woman is clearly a pain in the butt. If it were my business I would have thrown her out long ago. No other hotel would have put up with her kind of tactics. My advice to her is to go get a job and mind her own damned business."

"... if she actually believed in what she protested then why the hell did she continue residing there herself for 'THREE YEARS'. Right is right & wrong is wrong I wouldn't care if that was the last building standing, my family & I would be sleeping in the car to get my point across. Strength in character isn't about what a person says, it's how they put it down & this chaotic woman sounds like a straight instigator w/ far too much free time on her hands. They should have kicked her out a l-o-n-g time ago!!!""

A more sympathetic reader, who purports to know Young personally, wrote that:

"She was in a difficult position of having to stay where the errent contractor placed her and her family, and watching the nasty management pratices against the poor women who clean happening around her. She has a heart of gold, and has stood up for those who are taken advantage of since her days as a student at berkeley high."

Young's eviction doesn't mean the family will be out on the streets. The insurer for the Terraces' developer, which has been footing the family's hotel bill, will pay for them to live in another hotel, or an apartment, for the next year or two while they wait for their condo to be repaired.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Story Subject Served with Eviction Notice from Woodfin

by Lauren Gard
Fri, Apr 20, 2007 at 4:54 PM

In last week's feature, Home, Suite Home, we reported on Emeryville residents who have been living at the Woodfin Suites hotel for the past few years because their defective condos at The Terraces have yet to be fixed. The Express has learned that the family of one of our subjects, Juanita Carroll Young, was served Wednesday with an eviction notice. (She is the mother of our 11-year-old cover girl Larissa Campaña). Young and her family were offered no immediate explanation for the sudden eviction, although she says that today her husband bumped into a Woodfin executive and was told that the eviction was related to "inappropriate behavior" and that the Woodfin has been "more than tolerant." Calls to hotel management made early yesterday, and again today, were not returned. Young says she corresponded with representation for The Terraces' developer, Wareham Development, whom she believes is uninvolved in the eviction.

Young surmises that the action may have to do with her ongoing active involvement with Woodfin housekeepers organizing for better treatment, a story the Express covered in January (Christmas at Woodfin Suites, Jan. 24). She is considering meeting with a tenants' rights attorney to determine if the eviction is legal. As far as we've been able to deduce, no other Woodfin residents who told their stories in last week's article have been served with eviction notices.

Buy Curious: Shop. Recycle. Shop. Recycle

Fri, Apr 20, 2007 at 4:54 PM

It's Earth Day. It's 4/20. Whichever left-of-center holiday you're getting behind this weekend, Buy Curious serves up plenty of excuses to shop. This week: we spot a couple of mother-daughter teams engaged in shopping bonding on Fourth Street; Francophilia thrives in Old Oakland; a new blog highlights the best of East Bay shopping; drinking and fashion Walnut-Creek style; and a couple of sample sales to tame your bargain-shopping heart. mom.jpg IMG_1031.jpg

STYLEFILE Like Mother, Like Daughter? Who: Gina and Lori with daughter, Skyler, 7, and Berkeley, 3, respectively. Where we spotted them: On their way into upscale kids' clothing shop This Little Pig on Fourth St. What they wore, and why: Skyler, sporting violet-hued sunglasses, a mini-kilt with a studded black belt, a fur-lined black puffy jacket, black knit tights and white boots, said her mom acts as her stylist, though Skyler did add the fur-lined patent-leather boots to her mom's morning selection. Little Berkeley (who resides with her family in Vallejo) was rockin' in a brown dress with flower appliques, a Little Mermaid necklace, tights and stellar brown leather boots. Lori, visiting from Orange County, said she felt underdressed. "I tried to explain how people here dressed," said Gina, "but in Orange County, women wear high heels to go shopping."


Boutique Spotlight: Mignonne Old Oakland's Mignonne is a treasure just waiting to be found. The French-inspired boutique, started by mother-daughter team Kimberlee and Johnelle Mancha, exudes that irresistible shabby-chic charm. Find everything from delicately-scented candles to natural body washes, fine Portuguese dishes to a restored vintage kitchen table. Best of all is the down-to-earth, friendly vibe created by the owners, who have a true appreciation for the city of Oakland. Where: 1000 Jefferson St., Oakland


Blog + Shop + Oakland Here's a blog that speaks to Buy Curious' heart: takes a straight-forward approach to shopping in the East Bay, namely clear, up-close photos of scrumptious goods inside boutiques, restaurants, and other noteworthy businesses. Though it's only updated about once a week, we love their dedication to shopping local. Currently featured: Piedmont Ave. home store Make My Day, Oakland boutique AC Clothing and Bags, Montclair Malt Shop, and furniture designs from David Brunicardi.

OaklandGoods is a blog offshoot of NovoMetro, an experimental journalism site covering Oakland and Berkeley. The nearly year-old news site has given quite a bit of coverage to fashion lately. Check out photos from last weekend's fashion show at the Crucible, a hit-list of hip baby stores, and this nice feature on West Oakland designer Cari Borja. Borja, a former Ph.D. student in anthropology at UC Berkeley and flamenco dancer, embellishes her clothing line with ripples of ruffles (in a post-modern, artsy versus frilly way). Her clothes are available at several East Bay boutiques, including Utopia, Siobhan Van Winkel, and Iniam.


Design Utopia at Medjool This swanky San Francisco nightspot is opening its doors during the daytime for a designer sample spa/spa extravaganza. For $10, treat yourself to a manicure, massage, and access to loot from tons of local designers. Proceeds from the $10 entrance fee benefit children's non-profit The Next Right Thing. (Got wildly amorous weekend plans? Don't miss the East Bay's own Ho on the Go a company that sells compact one night stand kits complete with undies and condoms.) When: Sun., Apr. 22, 11 a.m. - 4 p.m. Where: 2522 Mission Street, San Francisco


Beer & Fashion Collide in Walnut Creek Free Thursday night? Grab some friends and head to Pyramid Alehouse to watch Oakland A's Nick Swisher emcee Unfiltered Fashion, a benefit fashion show "featuring Walnut Creek's hottest bartenders, models and local boutiques." (We have no clue who the city's hottest bartenders and models are, but hey, why not go and find out!) How much it'll set you back: $25 When: Thurs., Apr. 26, 6 p.m. - 10 p.m. Where: 1410 Locust St., Walnut Creek

Good Riddance, IKEA! Spruce Up Your Pad for Pennies*** Save up to 75 percent on ultra mod furniture at Design Within Reach's annual sample sale. Some of the goods up for grabs may be slightly damaged or irregular, yet they're still highly usable. (Who can afford them as-is, anyway?) A Case Study Day Bed (in other words, a low-slung, minimalistic couch that's more cool than comfortable) we bought for 50 percent off a few years back had a single perfectly round hole in the fabric (a cigarette burn resulting from too much partying in the showroom?). A cute pillow easily cloaked the defect. All sales are final, though, so choose wisely. Oh, and though you'll have the option of having DWR deliver, you'll save even more if you come prepared to lug your groovy new stuff home yourself. When: Sat, Apr. 21, 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.; Sun, Apr. 22, 11 a.m. - 4 p.m. (Same hours next weekend as well.) Where: DWR Potrero Studio Warehouse, 2299 Alameda, San Francisco (415) 773-4624 ***Buckets of them.

Recycle Your Relics Got an old toaster lying around? Tape player? 8-track? (It's OK, we won't tell). This Earth Day weekend, take advantage of a free electronic recycling event in Berkeley. When: Sunday, April 22, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Where: Alameda County Computer Resource Center, 1501 East Shore Highway, Berkeley


Read It and Weep. And Never Screw Up Again. Here's an opener we can totally relate to, from an article in yesterday's New York Times: We all have coping rituals. Mine kick in when it's time to pay bills. Before opening a credit card statement, I promise myself that I will not succumb to recrimination and self-loathing when forced to confront my spending habits.

We do this, too. (Though sipping a glass of wine while opening aforementioned mail works just as well.) Still, if you've ever had a charge you truly can't pin down, the rest of the story is a must-read. You'll learn why you should pay attention to what you sign up for online - not to mention every single line of your credit card statements. (Hint: Always read the fine print!)

Every Friday, Buy Curious dishes on the hottest fashion trends, news, and sales in the East Bay - and we want to hear from you! Tips? Suggestions for things you'd like to see? Questions for Buy Clueless, our advice column? Send it all to us. Email BuyCurious[at]EastBayExpress[dot]com

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