L.A.–Diversity Capital of the World


 

At least in terms of ethnicity, the Los Angeles City Council and citywide elected officialdom are catching up with the people of Los Angeles in key areas of diversification.

Interracial handsFirst and foremost it’s important to know that Los Angeles County is the inter-racial capital of the world.  Based alone on the statistics of marriage licenses issued by the County Recorder, for decades Los Angeles has outstripped the rest of the world as the county with by far and away more inter-racial marriages than anywhere else.  Of course there is no scientific basis for the concept of multiple races within the “human race” so I’m using it the way that government and the public generally thinks of the concept.  The overwhelming number of inter-racial marriages in Los Angeles at a minimum force the friends, families and co-workers of the people involved to at least deal with the fact of the marriage whether they like it or not.  Compared with the positive quantity of inter-racialism of this sort, the number of “hate crimes” based on racial motivation pales.

Three of the newly elected Los Angeles City officials are Gay and went up to be sworn in Sunday with their husbands or significant others.  Controller Ron Galperin–the son of a Jewish concentration camp surviving father who along with his mother fought in the Israeli war of independence–was accompanied by his husband, Rabbi Zachary Shapiro.  Council member Mitch O’Farrell, of Wyandotte Native American descent, was with his partner George Brauckman while Council member Mike Bonin succeeded his Gay former City councilman boss, Bill Rosendahl, accompanied by his partner Sean Arian.

City Attorney Mike Feuer, who headed Bet Tzedek Legal Services in Los Angeles before his political career, is the son of a World War II Army Air Corp sergeant and ball turret gunner who survived a year in Luft-Stalag 17 as a prisoner of war.

Bob Kafi Blumenfield

Bob & Kafi Blumenfield with their children

City Council member Bob Blumenfield and his wife Kafi Blumenfield– who heads the prestigious Liberty Hill Foundation — are the quintessential “salt and pepper” team of a white husband and black wife.

 

Felipe & Lena Wu-Fuentes with daughter Lliana

Felipe & Lena Wu-Fuentes with daughter Lliana

Likewise, Council member Felipe Fuentes is in an inter-racial marriage.  He once pointed out the complexities of the census during an Assembly committee hearing in dealing with so-called mixed racial people in that on his side his daughter Lliana is of Mexican descent while on the side of his wife, Lena Wu Fuentes, she is Brazilian, Chinese and Jewish.

First ever Los Angeles Jewish Mayor Eric Garcetti is descended from an Italian immigrant to Mexico on his father’s side who fled the Mexican revolution to America, while on his mother’s side his Jewish forebears fled persecution in Eastern Europe.  The inaugural invocation was given by Rabbi Susan Goldberg, daughter of prominent attorney (and old friend of mine) Arthur Goldberg and niece of former school board member, city council member, and State Assembly member Jackie Goldberg.  Art and Jackie (brother & sister) were prominent in the 60’s U.C. Berkeley Free Speech Movement (FSM) and many other radical struggles.

Filling out the Los Angeles City Council are African American members Herb Wesson, Curren Price and Bernie Parks; Chicano/Mexicano/Italian Gil Cedillo, Jose Huizar, and Joe Buscaino; Armenian American Paul Krekorian; Paul Koretz, Jewish; leaving the sole straight “Anglo” male on the Council as Tom LaBonge.

Cindy Montanez & Jan B. Tucker @ Rep. Brad Sherman's November 2012 victory re-election party

Cindy Montanez & Jan B. Tucker @ Rep. Brad Sherman’s November 2012 victory re-election party

For the first time in a long time though, Los Angeles will be without a woman on the City Council until as I expect, my great friend Cindy Montanez wins her special election runoff later this month.  Cindy, whose family hails from Ciudad Juarez in Mexico has a very interesting heritage.  Her epiphany on her Jewish family origins came when I quizzed her (as I do with all of my Latino friends) about some obscure customs and traits.  She sweeps to the center of the floor “because that’s the way my mother and grandmother always” did it (keeping the dirt away from holy objects on the walls).  The family makes flour tortillas (Spanish style Matzoh from the 15th Century).  Her grandmother always “adamantly” insisted that all work had to stop Friday night and not continue until Saturday night (keeping the Jewish Sabbath).  Cindy couldn’t understand as a child while all the Catholic families she grew up with weren’t like that but all the Jewish families she knew were…..until I finally explained that it was obvious that her family had been forcibly been converted by the Spanish Inquisition.

Since then, Cindy has been to Israel twice and last visit met with President Shimon Peres–who like the Perez, Peretz, and other variations on the name is likely descended from Perez, son of Judah, son of Jacob as per the Torah.

I don’t know if anybody picked up on this but me, but yesterday several of the lines out of Mayor Garcetti’s speech were straight out of the Buffie Sainte Marie song, Welcome, Welcome Emigrante.  Speaking of the trials and tribulations of his Mexican and Jewish immigrant grandparents who sought refuge in America, three of his lines paraphrase from the lyrics:

I am proud, I am proud, I am proud of my forefathers and I say, they built this country

For they came from far away, to a land they didn’t know

They spoke a foreign language and they labored with their hands……the same way you do my friend

Kenia Castillo administers the oath of office to Mayor Eric Garcetti

Kenia Castillo administers the oath of office to Mayor Eric Garcetti

Underscoring that yesterday’s inauguration was just very different and a break with the past, swearing in Mayor Garcetti was fourteen year old Kenia Castillo.  She’d met Eric when she was four and her mother, a member of the SEIU (Service Employees International Union), a custodian, and her fellow union members needed support and Eric had been there for them.  When they met again as he was campaigning for Mayor, they got involved because now they were there for him.  I am hopeful that this spirit carries on in everything our new administration does from now on in deeds as well as in words.

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Fighting Intellectual Property Theft BY Hollywood


 

A letter sent to the California Supreme Court yesterday followed by my own letter:

On Thu, Jun 27, 2013 at 3:36 PM, Marsha Williams

June 27, 2013

MARSHA POSNER WILLIAMS

The Honorable Chief Justice Tani Gorre Cantil-Sakauye
The Honorable Associate Justices of the California Supreme Court
Supreme Court of California
Earl Warren Building at Civic Center Plaza
350 McAllister Street
San Francisco, CA 94102-4797

RE: TERENCE DUNN v. DREAMWORKS ANIMATION SKG, INC.
Case #S211313

Dear Honorable Chief Justice Tani Gorre Catil-Sakaye and
the Honorable Associate Justices of the California Supreme Court:

As a Co-Producer of the hit series, THE GOLDEN GIRLS, and having worked in the entertainment industry for more than 20 years, I have earned two Prime Time Emmy Awards as well as three Golden Globe Awards for my efforts. I am a huge proponent, advocate and supporter of innovation and creativity in television, film and in all industries where originality is foremost.

I have also produced informational and training videos as well as public
service announcements for many different departments within the United
States Government. An anti-terrorism advertising campaign produced by me for the U.S. State Department resulted in the government’s capture of major
overseas terrorists.

I’ve known Terry Dunn since the mid-1990’s as a fellow producer of holistic
health and fitness videos (Terry’s forte is Tai Chi/Kung Fu and my forte is Yoga and Pilates).

I have followed the torturous ordeal that Terry has experienced in trying to get just compensation for the original “Zen-Bear” ideas that he created in 1992, and copyrighted in 1993 even before Dreamworks was formed in 1994.Terry alleges that his Zen-Bear idea was stolen from his in-person pitch in November, 2001 and is the basi s for the Kung Fu Panda franchise.

I want to voice my concerns over the obvious and serious errors committed by the Trial and Appellate courts that have led to the filing of Dunn’s petition.

The errors of the lower courts raise many issues that I believe need to resolved in order to ensure the health not just of my industry, television, but all creative industries where innovation is key and where the purveyors of truly original ideas must be protected adequately.

I believe that if the issues raised in Dunn’s petition are not addressed, a
massive loophole will continue to exist that will protect corporate predation and promote and further encourage idea theft.

My bottom line, gut reaction is this: when I first met Terry, I was invited to his home to discuss various fitness stuff – while there, he showed me his Zen
Bear maquettes, treatments and an an early draft of a children’s book, based
on his Zen Bear Panda and its ability to perform Kung Fu. I remember clearly cheering Terry on when he later called and told me he was going to
Dreamworks Animation to have an in person meeting to pitch the Zen Bear
movie and later being horrified when I saw that “Kung Fu Panda” was being
released by Dreamworks Animation with Terry was being completely cut out of the deal!

But now, I am now even more disturbed that the court systems and the law
have apparently failed to correct this blatant theft committed by Dreamworks.

I’m not a lawyer, but I do know that resolving these issues in Terry’s petition will be good not only for our industry, but for all creative industries dependent on innovation.  And if these issues are not corrected, and Terry is not given his due, it will be one more example of unchecked corporate greed and corporate theft which is always a blight on society and that we everyday people abhor and despise.

Idea theft. Not only does it only deprive the idea purveyor of his growth and
livelihood, it deprives society of  the greater benefits of an originator’s talent or genius.   Who wants to see a knock off of a product born of theft?!

I have seen Terry Dunn’s excellent character design for his Zen Bear Panda, as well as his Tiger, Leopard, Snake, Dragon, Crane,Monkey, Preying Mantis and Tortoise and in my opinion, they are all far superior to what Dreamworks came up with. It’s so unfortunate that audiences have been deprived of Terry’s complete story and original creations.

I hope in reviewing his Terry’s petition, Your Honors will do what’s right to
enable Dunn’s restoration, thereby improving the laws governing idea
submission cases in our business and which will ultimately be good for all
creative industries.

Sincerely,    Marsha Posner Williams

—————————-

 

RE: TERENCE DUNN v. DREAMWORKS ANIMATION SKG, INC.

 

Case #S211313

 

 

Honorable Chief Justice Tani Gorre Catil-Sakaye and

 

the Honorable Associate Justices of the California Supreme Court:

 

 

Intellectual Property theftI am writing in my individual capacity, however I believe that when many of the organizations I normally represent in the Same Page/Misma Pagina (SPC) Coalition are apprised of this case that they will agree with my point of view. The SPC includes many important entertainment industry people associated with the Bring Hollywood Home Foundation (BHHF) which is part of the coalition. I also work closely with several Independent Film Producers and have done so for years in a volunteer and/or professional capacity. From these contacts I have more than an average knowledge of the entertainment and film industries.

 

 

Professionally as a private investigator, I have also been involved with many situations involving “Hollywood” including but not limited to a federal court appointment in connection with the prosecution of Anthony Pellicano and his co-defendants.

 

 

I was also the private investigator who exposed Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Charles Stoll as having thrown over twenty (20) cases filed against various Disney corporate entities out of court—while his single largest investment was $50,000 worth of Disney stock. Stoll was publicly reprimanded for this misconduct by the Commission on Judicial Performance.

 

 

I am a proponent, advocate and supporter of innovation and creativity in television, film and in all industries where originality is critical.

 

 

I know and respect Terry Dunn, have worked with him in an investigative capacity

 

 

Terry Dunn

Terry Dunn–Tai Chi

 

 

I want to voice my concerns over the obvious and serious errors committed by the Trial and Appellate courts that have led to the filing of Dunn’s petition. The errors of the lower courts raise many issues that need to be resolved in order to ensure the health not just of television, but all creative industries where innovation is key and where the purveyors of truly original ideas must be protected adequately.

 

 

I believe that if the issues raised in Dunn’s petition are not addressed, a loophole will to exist that will protect corporate predation and promote and further encourage idea theft.

 

 

 

Intellectual property theft deprives the idea purveyor of his/her growth and livelihood while it deprives society of the greater benefits of an originator’s talent or genius.

 

 

 

Respectfully Yours,  Jan B. Tucker

 

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Discrimination at Port of Oakland


 

In a Spring 2009 article (http://urbanhabitat.org/book/export/html/4514) Aditi Viadya, MPH wrote:

More than two million containers of cargo move through the Port of Oakland each year, making it the country’s fifth-busiest container seaport and a crucial link in the global supply chain. It connects the factories of China and the rest of the Pacific Rim with the United States consumer market, handling cargo for some of the wealthiest multinational corporations, such as Wal-Mart and Home Depot. The Port generates more than $7 billion a year in economic activity and tens of thousands of jobs in the San Francisco Bay Area. Yet, low-income residents of neighborhoods near the Port and the truck drivers who work at the Port miss out on their fair share of economic prosperity—and get more than their share of the health and environmental problems caused by diesel pollution from the trucks.

The critical economic activity of the Port of Oakland necessitates that it be run efficiently and without discrimination, harassment, retaliation, or for that matter, with violence against employees.  An October 22, 2012 report by Bay Cities News Service and CBS San Francisco–based upon documents they obtained via the California Public Records Act–indicated that:

Port officials Friday said the port’s Acting Executive Director Deborah Ale Flint has ordered Maritime Director James Kwon to return from overseas business travel and be placed on administrative leave. The decision comes on the heels of the discovery that Kwon allegedly spent $4,500 in port money at a Texas strip club in 2008, according to the port.

Port officials did not immediately notice the improper expenditures because the name of the strip club on the receipt was not evident, according to statements from the port.

As an investigation into the alleged expenditures gets underway, the port has also asked its executive director, Omar Benjamin, to take a paid administrative leave.

 

Port of Oakland ProtestIn spite of the fact that the Contract between Local 1021 (as successor to Local 790) of the SEIU and the Port of Oakland provides that “All employees will strive to provide services in a work atmosphere of respect and dignity with a sense of pride. Fair work rules and procedures shall be applied equally to all employees,”  a lawsuit has been filed by Joaquin Dominiquez, a Cuban American immigrant, Army veteran, and long – time Oakland employee, that alleges that he has been systematically harassed, discriminated against, physically assaulted twice, that Port officials have systematically failed to investigate his allegations.  In Alameda County Superior Court Case No. RG13684521, Dominiquez contends that his rights were violated under the Ralph Civil Rights Act, the Bane Civil Rights Act, three different subsections of the California Whistleblower Protection Act, five subsections of the Fair Employment & Housing Act, and other constitutional and legal protections.

Workplace ViolenceFor the past  month–maybe coincidentally and maybe not–Dominiquez has been subjected to repeated vandalism attacks on his vehicle after he made it known that he would file suit against the Port of Oakland and former co-workers who he says made his life a living hell.

The allegations of the suit include that the Port violated Section 6400 of the California Labor Code by refusing Dominiquez’s requests to be trained in the use of a safety harness in accord with federally mandated Safety Track procedures.  Subsequently, the suit alleges that on August 27, 2009, a supervisor called him a “stupid Hispanic” and physically attacked him and then attacked him again on September 12, 2009.  Employees charged with investigating Dominiquez complaints to management of being physically attacked have yet to report the results of their inquiry according to the action filed in Superior Court.

Stop DiscriminationDominiquez suit also contends that management prohibited him from taking a promotional exam, allowed another less qualified employee to take it and then gave the other employee a de facto promotion even though he’d failed the examination.

Coming full circle to the above mentioned allegations about corruption at the Port, the suit alleges that on “…January 13, 2011, Defendant [Omar] Benjamin ratified Defendant [Kenneth] Taylor and [William] Morrison’s conduct in violation of Plaintiff’s ‘Weingarten Rights’ and his Constitutional and legal right to Safety by issuing a letter formally placing Plaintiff on administrative leave for ‘refusing to follow direction and calling police, falsely accusing supervisor and manager of threatening’ Plaintiff.”  Omar Benjamin is the same person who later had to resign due to his role in the strip club scandal [http://www.mercurynews.com/breaking-news/ci_21985364/port-oakland-exec-omar-benjamin-resigns-amid-spending]:

Port of Oakland exec Omar Benjamin resigns amid spending scandal

Updated:   11/13/2012 07:06:01 AM PST

 

OAKLAND — Port of Oakland executive director Omar Benjamin said Monday that he would “retire” effective immediately, even as the investigation into his involvement in a strip club expense reimbursement continued.

The port chief was found to be part of a group whose $4,537 tab at a Texas strip club was paid for by the Port of Oakland, according to newly released expense records.

The Port of Oakland released the full version of the expense records Friday as scrutiny over the spending continued. The records showed for the first time that Benjamin helped run up the strip club tab that was passed off as a normal business meeting.

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English Proficiency


 

Marco Rubio’s English language proficiency demands for so-called “immigration reform” are his attempts to bend over backwards to racists as if English language proficiency is going to make racists feel better about their stereotypes of dark skinned invaders from the Southern Hemisphere.

Norway

Norway

Now if there’s one nation that is about as ethnically homogenous as a nation-state can possibly be, it’s Norway, but the Norwegians don’t have a problem with their minorities speaking their own language and being citizens with full equal rights as well as the right to speak and promote their own language. This is what Wikipedia has to say about the status of the Sami language (the language of those historically known as the “Lapp” people or the “Lapplanders,” those terms actually being considered derogatory):

Adopted in April 1988, Article 110a of the Norwegian Constitution states: “It is the responsibility of the authorities of the State to create conditions enabling the Sami people to preserve and develop its language, culture and way of life”. The Sami Language Act went into effect in the 1990s. Sami is an official language of the municipalities of Kautokeino, Karasjok, Gáivuotna (Kåfjord), Nesseby, Porsanger, Tana, Tysfjord, Lavangen and Snåsa.

Sami Language region of Norway

Sami Language region of Norway

America should be tolerant enough to respect and constitutionally enshrine the rights of ethnic groups to preserve their own linguistic heritages. It’s not like new Americans don’t want to learn English. Most of them are desperate to learn English and will do it on their own while given a chance. The crusade to make English an “official” language and shove it down people’s throats by law is nothing more than malicious excuse to demean and disrespect the native languages of new Americans.

What I’d really like to know is, how many people who support so-called “English only” laws or “English as an official language” laws understand or can actually define the word “proficiency?”  I bet a lot of these people are hearing that word for the first time in the current national debate it’s sparking.

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CA is gutting the Public Records Act


 

CPRARecently, against the staunch opposition of California newspapers, the California Association of Licensed Investigators, California League of Latin American Citizens, National League of Latin American Citizens, Bring Hollywood Home Foundation, Miss Revolutionaries and the San Fernando Valley/Northeast Los Angeles Chapter of the National Organization for Women, the legislature removed from the budget bill a provision which would have charged the public $10.00 just to search court records indexes and raised the fees for copies to $1.00/page and the certification fees to astronomical levels.  But another provision of the budget bill is even more dangerous to the public and to the small “d” democratic nature of government itself:

 

Mercury News editorial: Public Records Act must be restored

 Posted: 06/18/2013 12:49:07 PM PDT

 Updated: 06/19/2013 06:52:05 AM PDT

     Without the state Public Records Act, we would never have known about the Santa Clara County supervisor who used public funds to feed his gambling habit or the sheriff who issued concealed weapons permits to campaign contributors and out-of-county residents.

     We would be ignorant of broken bolts on the Bay Bridge, the cover-up of Moraga teachers sexually abusing students, a BART train operator who collected salary and benefits totaling $193,407, the former BART general manager who received $420,000 the year after she was fired or the Port of Oakland executives who spent $4,500 one night at a Texas strip club.

     As the state Legislature declared in the preamble to the records law, “access to information concerning the conduct of the people’s business is a fundamental and necessary right of every person in this state.”

     In this photo taken Tuesday, June 11, 2013, Gov. Jerry Brown discusses the budget compromise reached with Democratic leaders, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento left, and Assembly Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles, right, during a Capitol news conference in Sacramento, Calif. Lawmakers are expected to vote, approve the compromise budget plan reached that largely mirrors the governor’s proposal for a fiscally restrained spending plan that assumes conservative revenue projections.

     But the Legislature and Gov. Jerry Brown are gutting the law.

   As a result, local government officials will only have to relinquish documents when they get around to it. If they deny access, they will no longer need to provide a written reason. If they have easily searchable electronic data, they can instead print it out and hide alarming numbers in reams of paper.

     If state lawmakers care one iota about transparency — or if Californians hammer them for what they’ve done — they will reverse this appalling action.

      Legislators know all about burying information. They made these changes to the state Public Records Act last week at the last minute by slipping language into one of 15 state budget bills now sitting on the governor’s desk. While legislators and Brown touted on-time passage of the spending plan, they didn’t mention they’d also made it far more difficult for taxpayers to determine how local governments use their money.

     Lawmakers hide behind the notion that this change will save the state money, since it has to reimburse local governments for costs of complying with mandates it has imposed since 1975. That includes Public Records Act amendments requiring local governments to provide written responses to document requests within 10 days and to provide the records in electronic format if they’re available that way.

      Rather than pay the costs of compliance, lawmakers ended the mandates. The governor first proposed suspending the requirements; the Legislature permanently killed them. They all point to estimates from the Legislative Analyst’s Office that this would save the state tens of millions of dollars. We usually admire the work of the LAO, but in this case it offered no justification for the number, which appears to be a wild guess.

      More important, it doesn’t account for billions saved because residents — and, yes, the media — now have the ability to examine records and act as watchdogs.

     The LAO said local officials should decide whether to comply with disclosure rules. Ask residents of Bell how well that would work. The idea is absurd. It’s not responsible public officials who will balk at providing records. It’s the bad ones — the ones who don’t want us to know what’s really going on. The state is giving them license to operate in secret.

      It is unconscionable.

*************

“Secrecy, being an instrument of conspiracy, ought never to be the system of a regular government.” — Jeremy Bentham

“Every thing secret degenerates, even the administration of justice; nothing is safe that does not show it can bear discussion and publicity.” — Lord Acton

“Children love secret club houses. They love secrecy even when there’s no need for secrecy.” — Donna Tartt

“The liberties of a people never were, nor ever will be, secure, when the transactions of their rulers may be concealed from them.” — Patrick Henry

“The best weapon of a dictatorship is secrecy, but the best weapon of a democracy should be the weapon of openness.” — Niels Bohr

“The very word ‘secrecy’ is repugnant in a free and open society; and we are as a people inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, to secret oaths, and to secret proceedings.” — John F. Kennedy

Don’t let this happen.  Call, write and email you legislators and demand that these provisions be taken out of the budget bill.

 

 

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Jewish Clean Sweep in LA Elections


 

Shame on every ethnic group in Los Angeles with one exception, maybe?

LA City VotesVoter turnout in the Los Angeles Municipal elections was the worst in 100 years:  23% of the electorate turned out.  Shortly after the election, one winning politician laid a very interesting statistic on me.  I haven’t verified it but it was from a reliable source and I see no reason to disbelieve it as fantastic as it sounds.

 

50% of the voters who did turn out were Jewish.

Jewish VoteLos Angeles now has a Jewish Mayor (Eric Garcetti), a Jewish City Attorney (Mike Feuer), and a Jewish City Controller (Ron Galperin, whose husband is a Rabbi).  Likewise, Nancy Pearlman won an incredible come from behind victory to win by 14% after coming in second in the primary for re-election to the Community College Board.

Tikkun Olam, healing the world

Tikkun Olam, healing the world

Knowing all of these four people personally, I’m confident that they all agree with me that whether or not god exists (I’m an existentialist Rabbi-Tlamatini of the Jewish Existentialist World Society) the Jewish tribal commitment to Tikkun Olam, healing the world, is part and parcel of what motivates them to public service.  What I hope is that my fellow Jews who turned out in massive percentage did so with the same motivation, and not just mindless voting by tribal affiliation.

 

Tikkun Olam is a Hebrew phrase that means “repairing the world” (or “healing the world”) which suggests humanity’s shared responsibility to heal, repair and transform the world. In Judaism, the concept of Tikkun Olam originated in the early rabbinic period. The concept was given new meanings in the Kabbalah of the medieval period and has come to possess further connotations in modern Judaism.

 

 

In Lurianic Kabbalah, the physical world is connected to spiritual realms above, and these spiritual realms in turn influence the physical world. In the Derech Hashem, it is written that Jews have the ability, through physical deeds and free will, to direct and control these spiritual forces. These spiritual forces include Tikkun (rectification, good; the presence of Divine light) and Kilkul (damage, evil; not merely the absence of goodness and Divine light, but its own force that is strengthened by the absence of goodness and Divine light).

 

 

A Jewish girl reading her "Haftorah" at her Bat Mitzvah, making her Aliyah or call to read

A Jewish girl reading her “Haftorah” at her Bat Mitzvah, making her Aliyah or call to read

I will be officiating at a Bar/Bat Mitzvah Sunday at Hollywood Forever, Beit Olam Mortuary section at 2:00 p.m. for four quadruplets who have already begun their journey in life with Tikkun Olam, helping at Food Banks for the poor, campaigning for candidates who will make the world better, and participating in a whole host of programs against racism, sexism, and violence.  You’re all invited.  Check my FB event page for June 16 for details or email me at boruch@janbtucker.com.

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Rated as a Leading Blog by Background Checks.org


 

 

Background Checks.org Top 40 Private Eye Blogs

Background Checks.org

Hello,

My name is Nicki and I am part of the Editorial Team for Background Checks.org. I wanted to let you know that your site at http://janbtucker.com/blog/ has been selected as one of the Top 40 Private Eye Blogs.

Our Editors and Readers selected your blog because of its high standard of quality information mixed with your excellent commentary.

We enjoyed reading your posts and we find them very informative……

In addition, if you are interested in being interviewed for our blog, please let me know. Continued Success!

Nicki Watson

 

Top 40 Private Eye Blogs

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Tusca at Hyatt is the bomb


 

Tusca

Tusca @ The Hyatt, 5101 Great American Parkway

The food, the service and the ambiance of Tusca restaurant at the Hyatt Regency Santa Clara is nothing short of atomic!

Callie Fowler

Chef Callie Fowler

Dining to some excellent and very trumpetty Jazz in the background, I’m glad I inquired about the Seasonal Ravioli, which turned out to be a creation of Chef Callie Fowler.  It’s made with Wagyu Beef and Truffles in a sauce of butter, white wine, with shallots and fresh tomatoes.  BrandtThe Wagyu Beef, akin to Japanese Kobe beef, is from Brandt Farms of Carlsbad, California, from cattle that are massaged and fed beer all day long, according to my fabulous waitress, Barb.

After devouring and savoring the ravioli and thinking that there was just nothing else that could possibly improve the experience for my palate, it’s lucky that Barb can sell sand in a desert, because she sold me on dessert….are you ready for this:  Italian Margarita flavored Gelato with sea salt!  This was three steps beyond…..it was pure unadulterated EVIL and my close friends know that this is a compliment that’s way beyond good…..

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Bring Hollywood Home Foundation Seeks Reform


 

6-4-13_001 6-4-13_002 6-4-13_003 6-4-13_004 6-4-13_005

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Rape Camps in Syria–What will the World DO?


 

Bosnian RapeIn 1992, SFV/NELA NOW organized a huge protest at the Westwood Federal Building that got massive press and drew support and participation from just about every feminist and human rights organization in town about the Bosnian Rape Camps being run by the Serb army. I THINK IT’S TIME FOR A NEW PROTEST ABOUT THE LACK OF THE WORLD’S ATTENTION TO WHAT’S GOING ON IN SYRIA:

Tracking a rumor: Is there a sugar factory in Syria being used as a rape house?

[Reprinted from:  http://www.womenundersiegeproject.org/blog/entry/tracking-a-rumor-is-there-a-sugar-factory-in-syria-being-used-as-a-rape-hou#.UaTlYbkK2nc.twitter]

By Lauren Wolfe/Director — May 24, 2013

We were seated on a scratchy nylon mat with “UNHCR” written all over it. Children with the same beautiful, olive-complexioned face stared big-eyed at me from every corner of the furniture-less room, and their mother cried as she talked about the many massacres her family had fled in Homs five months previously. The woman, Maha, 37, couldn’t recount how many people she had seen killed but she knew the number of family members she saw dragged away at a checkpoint as they fled their Homs neighborhood, Deir Ba’alba: 10.

As she tried to recall some of the horrors she’d witnessed, Maha mentioned that there was a sugar factory in her town where government soldiers were taking girls to be raped and killed.

“They picked beautiful girls for generals and then gave them to the soldiers,” Maha said.

“How do you know this?” I asked her.

She knows people who worked in the factory and witnessed what was happening there, she said.

“Whoever leaves the village has to go through a checkpoint next to the factory,” Maha said. “They take the girls at the checkpoint. The girls get killed. They disappear.” She said she did not know how many girls had been abducted.

A refugee in Amman told the author about a sugar factory that is allegedly being used as a rape and torture center in Homs. But rumors have long swirled about a different sugar factory—in a different province—in which women and men are being held in Syria.

Syria RapeIn my many interviews with Syrian refugees, I’d heard about alleged apartments or construction sites used as impromptu rape and torture centers. But something about a sugar factory rang a particular bell. The media, and the United Nations investigating commission, have reported on a sugar factory used as a rape and torture center in a town called Jisr Al-Shugour, in Idlib province. This is the UN’s note on it from a September 2011 report:

“According to other witnesses, the sugar factory was used in that period [around June 8, 2011] as the headquarters for armed forces deployed from other areas, as well as for the interrogation, detention and torture of suspects. Several sources also reported that four girls were raped at that location, although the mission was unable to corroborate these accounts.”

The France-based TV channel Euronews reported in June 2011 that a man named Sadik told the outlet: “I saw what happened in Jisr-al-Shughour with my own eyes. They have turned a sugar factory into a prison. They are literally skinning the men alive and raping the women.”

And we have this report on our map from German news outlet Spiegel Online International in June 2012 and this one from Time magazine in June 2011 talking about the Jisr Al-Shughour sugar factory/rape house.

But Jisr Al-Shughour is not close to Homs. So what about this allegation from the refugee I met? Could there really be two sugar factories being used as torture/rape centers? Could there even be one? I decided to look into the Homs rumor a little more closely.

A Web search turned up a number of sugar factories in Syria, but news reports specifically seem to refer to three or four. There is one in Jisr Al-Shughour, and there appear to be two near the woman’s home in Deir Ba’alba.

The National Sugar Company is located 16 miles (25 kilometers) outside of Homs on the way to Damascus; it was reportedly shut down in 2011. It might also be known as the Jandar refinery. Then there’s the Middle East Sugar Refinery located 31 miles (50 kilometers) south of Homs, in the Hasia industrial zone, 55 miles (90 kilometers) from the coast, near Iraq. Maha had told me the factory was “close” to her house. Are either of these conceivably “close” to Deir Ba’alba?

I asked a Syrian colleague of mine if she thought either factory would qualify as “close” to this woman’s town.

“As for the way Syrians estimate distance and what is close or far for them, it always frustrated me,” my colleague said. “There are no rules. They can say about a place that it is ‘as close as the distance a stone you throw will reach’ but turns out to be far, and they can say you need a car and it turns out it is a very reasonable walking distance.”

Assuming one of these factories is close enough to be the factory Maha talked about, who was actually in charge of the area in December 2012? Was the town controlled by government soldiers at that time?

A search reveals that there were a number of government massacres in that period in Homs. Specifically in Deir Ba’alba, the London-based independent Syrian Human Rights Committee reported on a massacre on December 29, 2012: “Human rights activists have reported that the district of Deir Ba’alba in Homs has witnessed a horrific massacre in which more than 220 civilians have been killed, following an attack on the area by Syrian regime forces and its Shabiha [plainclothes militia] gangs.” That particular attack might be the one that caused Maha and her family to flee Syria. She described a massive shabiha knife attack on her town as happening “around New Year’s Eve.”

This Reuters story describes an army push into the same area of Homs that same day, and an ongoing struggle for rebels to maintain their control over pieces of Homs. Are either of the two Homs factories in those disputed areas? I’m still looking into who was controlling the specific surroundings in those months, which saw heavy fighting in the province.

Getting back to the basic question here: Can there really be a sugar factory being used as a rape house in Syria? And can there actually be two?

The likelihood that there are two sugar factories being used in this way seems off. With the echo chamber that is the Internet and the rumor mill that churns propaganda surrounding Syria, I would be reluctant to say that both these allegations are real. But with the actual, documented torture and rape occurring in this war, I would be hesitant to discount that there is such a center where atrocities are being committed. We know such centers exist. And keeping track of the rumors gives us a base from which to investigate.

If such a rumor were proven to be true, it would open up an important question: Is someone in the Syrian government or army aware that this factory is (or was) being used as a rape house and, if so, did they order it into existence?

No one has yet proven that rape is systematic in Syria. By “systematic” I mean that someone in the government has orchestrated it. We just don’t have definitive proof whether the government, accused of multiple atrocities, has a hand in organizing any kind of rape site.

Bosnian Rape2Regardless of who may have organized an alleged site, it might help at this point to look to the lessons of Bosnia: In that conflict, a sports hall called Partizan, in Foca, served as a center for sexualized violence for a number of months in 1992. Women were routinely transported from the hall to be raped in soldiers’ apartments nearby. One told Newsday that soldiers had raped her about 150 times at Partizan. And while during the war there were warnings about the existence of the Partizan camp, the multiple reports went ignored.

One day, journalists and human rights investigators will be allowed into Syria. My hope is that by that time there will still be enough evidence, and survivors left to speak, to tell us what really happened.

(With research by Stephanie Chaban. For more on our work documenting sexualized violence in Syria, see this report on our findings at one year of crowdmapping and this story on how stigma is creating a wall of silence around this issue.)

UPDATE: A woman who says she lived in Homs for many years contacted me the day after this story went up and said she knows of a sugar factory about 3 miles (4.6 kilometers) from the center of Deir Ba’alba. Here it is on Google Maps. “It is very close to an air force intelligence building,” she said.

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Saying “Never Again” accomplishes nothing unless you accompany words with action.  The world ignored the Holocaust against the Armenians and Hitler knew that he could get away with a Holocaust against the Jews.  The world ignored the pogroms and rapes perpetrated in Azerbaijan against ethnic Armenians and said tsk tsk while 800,000 Armenians were driven out of Azerbaijan….so Serbian fascists knew they could get away with setting up concentration and rape camps in Bosnian to deal with Muslims and Croats.

Are YOU going to let this happen in Syria?

Never Again

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