January 2008 Archives

Protesters disrupt Huckabee event

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Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee spoke in San Francisco today at a Commonwealth Club-sponsored question and answer session that was briefly disrupted by anti-war protesters.

The former Arkansas governor addressed an audience of more than 70 people, outlining his views on a number of issues and repeating his intention to stay in the primary.

Arguing for the abolishment of the IRS, humility in relations with Europe, and forceful diplomacy with Middle Eastern nations surrounding Iraq, Huckabee punctuated serious answers with jokes.

He also called for less divisive politics, arguing that excessive partisanship has “paralyzed” Congress.

“We have way too much of what I call ‘horizontal politics’—everything is left/right, liberal/conservative, Democrat/Republican,” Huckabee said.

“I’m a conservative Republican. I don’t believe that liberal Democrats are wrong all the time. I don’t think Republicans are right all the time,” he said.

During the talk, two women stood up on their seats, holding pink and black anti-war signs.

“What about the children of Iraq, governor?” one of them called out. “Governor, let’s promote democracy in Iraq and bring the troops home.”

Some members of the audience shouted at the protesters to “shut up” as they were removed from the room by event staff. Huckabee was unruffled, however.

“The beauty of America is that a person, even a person who makes a disruption, is not taken out and summarily executed," he quipped.

Educators divided over Proposition 92

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In the middle of a state fiscal crisis, Proposition 92 has pitted educators against one another.

Proposition 92, also known as the Community College Initiative, is on the Feb. 5 ballot and would cap current community college fees at $15 per unit and limit future fee increases.

If Proposition 92 passes, community colleges may potentially cut their student fee revenue by $70 million each year. To offset this, the measure requires the state to allocate an additional $300 million from the general fund annually to K-12 schools and community colleges for the next three years, according to the California Legislative Analyst’s Office.

“No one really knows where that $300 million will come from, but [community colleges] want to lower their own revenues to increase revenue,” said Reed Galen, campaign spokesman for No on Prop. 92. “They want to take a funding stream out of the equation. They want to take $70 million out of current funding, but add $300 million in funding.”

Last November, the California State University Board of Trustees and the UC Board of Regents both voted to oppose Proposition 92. The California Teachers Association also as the California Federation of Teachers backs the measure.

“The main concern was that the initiative would tie up funds,” UC spokesman Ricardo Vazquez said. “It would diminish the flexibility of the governor and legislature in setting up their spending priorities, and the UC and CSU could be negatively impacted.”

While the initiative does not propose new sources of revenue, “there’s no dictate that says other programs will be cut to fund Prop. 92,” said Jennifer Wonnacott, campaign spokeswoman for Yes on Prop. 92.

“There’s a lot of talk about the budget, but [Proposition 92] is a need because a lot of people return to community college for work training or to transfer to a four-year college to pursue new careers,” Wonnacott said. “It’s a smart investment, because for every dollar spent on community colleges, the state gets $3 back.”

Though Proposition 92 does not explicitly state where the estimated $900 million will come from, “it has to come from somewhere,” Galen said.

“It comes from existing funds, but when you’re looking at a $14.5 billion deficit now, where does it come from?” Galen said. “It has to come from higher education, public safety, or social services–-on top of all the programs and all of the services that the state pays for.”

In 1988, voters approved Proposition 98, which bundled K-12 schools and community colleges as a single entity when assessing minimum funding requirements, and disburses funds based on K-12 enrollment. A minimum of approximately 40 percent of the General Fund is currently allocated to meet the 1988 requirement, but community colleges only receive 10 to 11 percent of those funds.

Proposition 92 would make separate minimum funding guarantees for K-12 schools and community colleges. However if the state allocates less than 40 percent of the General Fund for K-14 education, Proposition 92’s separate funding agreement will not apply. Even if passed, the California Legislative Analyst’s Office predicts that Proposition 92 will not be in effect for a few years.

The current $20 per unit fee at the state’s 109 community colleges is among the lowest in the nation, and 25 percent of community college students are eligible to have fees waived.

“Lowering fees are an important part of Prop. 92 because if fees are raised, students don’t enroll,” Wonnacott said. “[Prop. 92] ensures community colleges will have the resources they need to keep their doors open with stable and adequate funding.”

However, Proposition 92 would “mean less money for the CSU and UC system,” said CSU spokesman Paul Browning.

“At the community colleges, lower income students already get fee waivers,” Browning said. “The passage of the proposition may mean higher fees for CSU and UC systems, who have been forced to pay more in recent times because the state has reduced funds. The proposition could make funding more difficult than what it already is, and we’re trying to boost pay for faculty and staff.”

Proposition 92 would enable community colleges to enroll over 100,000 more students, Wonnacott said. In the 2007 fall semester, 3,135 new transfer students from community colleges and four-year colleges enrolled at SF State, according to Jo Volkert, associate vice president of Enrollment Planning and Management.

“We absolutely believe in the value of the community college system,” Galen said. “But [Proposition 92] is not the right way to go about that.”

Casino propositions evoke mixed feelings

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With four propositions on the February ballot proposing the expansion of Indian casinos in California, there has been heightened animosity on both sides, evident through the flurry of pro and con ads.

At the heart of Propositions 94, 95, 96 and 97 are the four Southern California tribes: the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Mission Indians, the Morongo Band of Mission Indians, the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation and the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, respectively.

Propositions 94 and 95 would allow the Pechanga and Morongo tribes to add 5,500 more slot machines while Propositions 96 and 97 would let the Sycuan and Agua Caliente tribes add 3,000 more.

In exchange for the approval to add more slot machines, the tribes would give an unspecified percentage of their revenue in addition to a set annual payment to the state’s General Fund. The Pechanga tribe would pay $42.5 million, the Morongo tribe would pay $36.7 million, the Sycuan tribe would pay $20 million and the Agua Caliente tribe would pay $23.4 million.

Though unspecified on the ballot, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has said that the percentage of revenue going to California would approximately be between 15 and 25 percent. Previously, the tribes had been paying based on the number of slot machines.

“Altogether there will be approximately $20 billion for the state of California over the next 20 years. That means a billion dollars a year,” Schwarzenegger said at a speech in Salinas on Jan. 15 to business leaders and elected officials.

“This is very badly needed money, and this is why I have been very proud that we negotiated that,” Schwarzenegger said, suggesting that the money would be used for education, law enforcement, hospitals and transportation among other needs.

Opponents of the propositions said adding the 17,000 new slot machines would be harmful for both the state and Indian tribes.

“If you’re not a member of the four tribes, the deal is bad,” said Nick DeLuca, a spokesman for NO on Unfair Gambling Deals, also known as NO on Props 94, 95, 96, 97. So far two tribes, the Pala Band of Mission Indians and the United Auburn Indian Community, have publicly opposed the propositions.

“Essentially, there’s no transparency. The only thing the state sees is what the tribes show,” he said, adding that there is no way the state could go in and ask to see the tribes’ financial records.

DeLuca said the money resulting from the deals would go nowhere toward solving the state’s budget crisis.

“It’s a drop in the bucket. It [will be] less than half of 1 percent of the state budget,” he said. DeLuca added that the four wealthy tribes pay such low wages that their employees cannot afford health insurance and that the state has to step in to help them.

For now, he said, the opponents of the propositions are not completely against all changes to the pre-existing compacts, but that they want to return to the bargaining table.

Representatives of Yes on 94, 95, 96 and 97 did not return calls. However, according to their Web site, www.yesforcalifornia.com, at least 34 tribes have come out in support of the propositions.

Joanne Barker, the chair for SF State’s American Indian studies department, said she was unsure why the issue is on the ballot. While emphasizing that she is not aligning herself with either side of the issue, she explained that some tribes “see it as a right of their sovereignty to do that.”

The tribes are their own nations and this issue should be addressed among the tribes and the state instead of bringing it to the American public for a vote, Barker said.

“California has a deplorable history of fulfilling its legal and economic obligations to tribes,” she said, referring to legislation like Public Law 280, established in 1953, which specified that several states—including California—provide social services and emergency care for a handful of tribes.

That is why, Barker said, some tribes may be resentful and feel that the state is going to the tribes to get money now that the state has a massive deficit. The new propositions, if approved, would overturn the previous contracts approved in 2000.

In 1999, then-Gov. Gray Davis signed compacts with around 60 Indian tribes allowing each tribe to operate up to 2,000 slot machines. In 2000, Californians approved Proposition 1A also known as the Indian Self-Reliance Act, which ratified the compacts and amended the state Constitution so that the tribes could legally operate slot machines, lottery games and banked and percentage card games such as blackjack and baccarat on Indian land.

The act also created the Revenue Sharing Trust Fund, which required that all tribes with over 350 slot machines pay a percentage of their revenue to non-gaming tribes or tribes with fewer than 350 machines. The trust fund would still be in effect whether or not Propositions 94, 95, 96 and 97 pass.

Alumni among 2008 U.S. Olympic swimming team

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The U.S. Olympic Committee announced that San Francisco is the only North American destination on the Beijing 2008 Olympic torch relay route at a press conference on Jan. 29.

The press conference, held at the Martin Luther King, Jr. pool in the Bayview-Hunters Point District, included speeches by San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, Olympic officials, and the head coach of the U.S. synchronized swimming team. The speeches were followed by a demonstration from the team.

“This is a big deal, and San Francisco is very proud to represent not only the U.S., but all of North America, Canada and Mexico in this historical event,” Newsom said. “As you know, about 39 percent of our residents are foreign-born, including one of the largest Chinese populations outside of China, so I feel it is utterly appropriate for San Francisco to take part in the Beijing 2008 Olympic torch relay.”

In keeping with tradition the torch will be lit at Olympia, Greece on March 28, 2008 and will arrive in China on March 31. About 22,000 torchbearers are expected, the largest number ever.

“There is only one stop in North America and it is here in San Francisco,” said Bob Ctvrtlik, USOC vice president. “It gives you goose bumps just to think about it.”

Newsom introduced Tammy McGregor, head coach for the synchronized swimming team and an SF State alumna, and Stephan Miermont, the choreography coach, as well as co-captains Kate Hooven and fellow SF State alumna Kim Probst. The team has been training for the Olympics at the Bayview-Hunters Point pool since mid-October.

“This is a very exciting time for us, because not only do we get to represent the U.S. at the Olympics, but we also get to see the Olympic torch go through San Francisco, the hometown to most of the girls on team,” McGregor said. “We also would like to thank the staff at the MLK, Jr. pool for allowing us to practice at such a nice indoor facility as this. It is very hard to find an indoor facility not being used, especially in Northern California.”

“Ten of the girls on the team were born and raised in the Bay Area, so we are greatly appreciative of the opportunity to train in San Francisco,” said captain Kate Hooven. “It’s special when you can train and represent your hometown.”

Currently ranked fourth in the world, the U.S. synchronized swimming team put on a brief demonstration of their routine. Hooven and Probst said they like their chances at earning a medal this year after handing Russia its first defeat in the last ten years.

“That was easily the highlight of my career so far. Beating Russia in Russia was amazing,” said Probst.

Since graduating from SF State in 2006, Probst is able to focus primarily on swimming.

“I’m so glad I am finished with college. Since getting my degree I have been able to focus strictly on swimming and it could not have come at a better time as I believe we have the confidence and ability to win,” said Probst.

The team is expected to leave for China in May. With three more months of intense training left, the team will be ready by the time the torch reaches the Olympic Stadium for the opening ceremony of the 2008 Olympic Games on Aug. 8, 2008.

While the exact route is still being put together, Newsom urged people interested in participating as torchbearers to apply via the Web site, www.sustainablejourney.com. The deadline for submitting applications is Feb. 3, 2008.

According to Kyri McClellan, the project manager for Newsom, 80 applications will be chosen, 41 locally and the remaining 39 applications by a combination of the U.S. Olympic Committee, the Beijing Organizing Committee of the Games of the XXIX Olympiad, and the corporate sponsors. Of the 80 applications, 30 people will be chosen.

For information about the 2008 torch relay route visit torchrelay.beijing2008.cn.

At a glance: news briefs

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Edwards withdraws presidential bid

Making the announcement from New Orleans, where he launched his campaign, former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards withdrew his candidacy from the presidential race.

“It’s time for me to step aside so history can blaze its path,” Edwards said. Edwards made no mention if he is endorsing one of the other Democratic candidates, Sen. Hillary Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama. Edwards has amassed 26 delegates in the primary season, according to CNN.

At SF State, the SF State Democrats club reacted to the news with a table full of Edwards bumper stickers.

“A lot of free stuff we have is now worthless,” said Greg Doty, the SF State Democrats communication director. “None of the other candidates have sent us anything yet.”
—Mani Dashtizadeh

New return policy at SF State’s bookstore

Bookstore implements new textbook return policy

Students will need to provide proof of dropped classes and a sales receipt to receive a full refund on course textbooks, SF State bookstore officials said.

Students can still return textbooks without proof of dropped classes and with a receipt, but will be charged a 10 percent restocking fee.

The textbook return policy is effective this semester and prevents shortages of books by discouraging students from purchasing books before officially enrolling in classes. It also helps offset increased costs due to students buying textbooks and returning them after finding cheaper books on the internet, ultimately driving textbook prices up, said Rob Strong, general manager of the bookstore.

“This new policy is actually designed to benefit students, not penalize them,” Strong said.

Students can obtain proof of dropped classes from the Bursar window in Student Services. They can also use printouts of their schedules showing their classes before and after a course drop, Strong said. The Spring textbook return period ends Friday, Feb. 8.
—Rachelle Gines

President pushing for federal government to monitor Internet traffic

Earlier this month President George W. Bush signed a directive, whose content is classified, authorizing intelligence agencies to monitor Internet traffic in hopes of minimizing attacks on government computer systems. Citing numerous cyber-attacks on the government in 2007, the directive allows the National Security Agency to monitor domestic networks and Internet users. However, people are becoming increasingly concerned about their privacy, according to the Washington Post. Critics of the directive told the Washington Post that online traffic monitoring is not enough to protect the government against attacks, and supporters said the initiative’s objective is not to spy on Americans, but to prevent attacks from foreign adversaries and other intruders. Other agencies granted authority by the directive include Homeland Security and the Pentagon.

—Crystal Akins

Bush asks for wiretapping renewal

President George W. Bush threw down a gauntlet to Congress on Jan. 26, invoking the World Trade Center attacks in a push to renew a federal wire-tapping law.

“We need to know who our enemies are and what they are plotting,” Bush said. “And we cannot afford to wait until after an attack to put the pieces together.”

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act was first put on the books in 1978 and amended in August to allow taps without warrants in some situations. The Protect America Act is set to expire Friday. Legislators have asked Bush to approve a 30-day extension of the law so they can continue refining the renewal of the law; Bush rejected this request.

“The President would veto a 30-day extension,” a senior administration official told Politico, a news Web site. “They’re just kicking the can down the road. They need the heat of the current law lapsing to get this done.”

Some legislators argued against the decision.

“There is no question that the ability to monitor communications is one of our intelligence community’s most powerful tools, as they do the hard work necessary to safeguard our nation,” said House Intelligence Committee Chairman Silvestre Reyes (D-Texas) in a statement on Jan. 28. “That is why the U.S. House passed the RESTORE Act, the Reyes-Conyers FISA legislation on Nov. 15. I urge President Bush to work with Congress in a bipartisan manner as the Senate completes their work on FISA legislation, and the House and Senate go to conference and craft a final bill.”

If the bill expires with no extension and no new law, Politico reported, surveillance already under way would be allowed to continue, but no new warrantless wiretaps would be allowed.

—Sean Maher

Lighting the way: students hold vigil for Gaza

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A crowd of 30 students circled peacefully in Malcolm X Plaza on the night of Jan. 29 in support of Palestinian residents, shielding their candles from the wind and speaking in turn about the country’s recent turmoil.

“Imagine this kind of weather with no heating systems,” said Loubna Qutami, the event’s 22-year-old organizer.

Qutami said that the 30-minute vigil was to mourn the Sunday death of George Habash, founder of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and to protest Israel’s increased restriction of vital resources traveling into the country, Qutami said.

With a handful of phone calls that morning, Qutami, who studied and worked in Palestine for six months last year, encouraged a group of friends to join her for the event. “Word of mouth” handled the rest, she said.

“It’s damn near impossible to live in Palestine,” said Ramsey Elqare, 25. Elqare, the son of Palestinian parents, was one of the first to hear about the proposed vigil and spent the day asking others to attend.

Five students spoke during the gathering, including a musical poem performed by Saji Abuomar.

“We know these candles don’t do much,” Qutami said, “but it reminds ourselves of where we come from.”

Surrogates for Dem. candidates debate in SF

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Echoing a national trend among Democratic presidential candidates, the topics of energy dependence, peace in the Middle East and economic transformation took center stage at the San Francisco Jewish Community Center Monday night.

The Democratic candidates’ local surrogate representatives took part in a debate in front of a lively and animated crowd of nearly 300 potential Democratic voters.

Moderating the debate was John Rothman, a political and foreign policy consultant and long-time host for KGO Radio in San Francisco.

“Tonight’s event is a longtime tradition,” Roth told the audience prior to the debate. “This has been a wonderful opportunity as it involves numerous clubs throughout San Francisco.”

The event was co-sponsored by the African-American Democratic Club, San Francisco Young Democrats and Democratic Women in Action.

Representing Illinois Sen. Barack Obama was Jonathan Spalter, a former foreign policy advisor to the Clinton Administration, whose statement declaring that Jan. 28 marked President George Bush’s final State of The Union address was met with a loud and boisterous applause.

Other representatives debating included San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera who spoke for New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, Jeff Soukup, a co-chair of California’s John Edwards for President campaign, and Lynn Moiser, the daughter of former Alaska senator, Mike Gravel.

The surrogates agreed the radical change was in order for the future administration.

“There are a lot of wonderful proposals on the table being discussed tonight,” said Spalter, “but we must continue to move forward if we are to achieve progress over the next decade.”

Reaction to the debate was a diverse as the candidates represented.

“This debate has only reinforced my opinion of who should run our country for the next four years,” said Joe Hall, a registered independent voter who said that he would be voting for Sen. Gravel.

“There are serious problems in this country that need to be addressed, and he has the vision to do that,” Hall said.

Mel Axelrod, another Bay Area resident, said he had been unsure of who to vote for before the debate.

“But now I’m sure,” he said. “Obama will be a great candidate in eight years, but right now it is the experience of Clinton that will win my vote,” Axelrod said.

Thousands attend event to honor, remember Dr. King

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Thousands attended the Martin Luther King Jr. Day event at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium to not only celebrate his 79th birthday, but also to recognize his accomplishments as a civil rights leader.

Freedom trains, buses and ferries came from all over the Bay Area arriving at the auditorium. At 4th and Townsend, a march of hundreds began, led by Rev. Cecil Williams from Glide Memorial Church, that ended at the auditorium.

He was appointed by Mrs. King to put on the event in San Francisco to celebrate her husband’s life and accomplishments,” said Ronnie Guildry, one of the event organizers. “This event is for the young people to get educated about who King is and what he stood for.”

Vendors sold King T-shirts and books about his life and legacy. Several teach-in sessions about King’s life and message were offered during the late afternoon.

“This event brings all communities and student groups together to learn about King and what he stood for,” said June Lucarotti, a UC Berkeley social welfare major. “It is a way to get his message and dream out there.”

Lucarotti participated in a teach-in called “The Remix.” The teach-in featured a DJ remixing King’s speeches and Lucarotti giving a discussion on the importance of giving a speech.

SF State student Netza Romero joined the march in the rain.

“I came out here today to support King and those still experiencing problems with race,” said Romero, 19, a BECA major.

“I want to make a difference and to follow the dream,” he said.

Gatherers were encouraged to sign a banner that was set up outside to make their mark at the event. Words such as “unity,” “freedom” and “community” were written on the banner.

“If it weren’t for King, most of us would not be here right now,” said Olivia Cahue of Yganacio Valley High School in Concord. She attended the event with several classmates.

“People need to be at this event to be more educated and less ignorant,” said fellow classmate Alexandra Kaczmarczyk.

Events celebrating King’s life happened all over the Bay Area from Oakland to San Jose.

“Today, let us get together and make the dream come true,” Williams said.

Hundreds board 'Freedom Train' to celebrate King's legacy

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The crowd at the San Jose train station filled the covered waiting area and spilled onto the drizzly sidewalk. Umbrellas up, the sea of mostly dark faces waited 45 minutes for their train to arrive. Hymns such as "This little light of mine" rose gently from the crowd like steam.

The Freedom Train, chartered annually by the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Association of Santa Clara Valley, marked the national holiday in honor of the renowned civil rights leader. The train ran from San Jose to San Francisco and this year brought as many as 2,000 people from the peninsula to the city.

Young and old alike made the trip, creating an opportunity for the newer generations to familiarize themselves with the life and works of Dr. King.

"Shhhh...," whispered Shawanda Alexander as she placed an index finger gingerly to her thick, pursed lips. Around and above her, children ages 5-16 nearly burst out of their seats to answer a question about Dr. King.

“How old was Dr. King when he enrolled in Moorehouse College?” she asked, as young voices rang out simultaneously, and a few hands went up as well. “That’s right,” Alexander continues, “15.”

Alexander, vice president of the San Jose chapter of Jack and Jill of America, was on board her fifth Freedom Train.

“My roots run deep with Dr. Martin Luther King,” she said, noting that Dr. King’s uncompromising stance against injustice is the most important lesson for the youth of today. “Don’t allow anyone to be mistreated anywhere, no matter who they are,” she said.

SF State criminal justice majors clean-up East Bay

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Martin Luther King Jr. Day went from a “day off” to a “day on” as several Bay Area organizations gathered in Oakland to pay their respects in a way that would have made him proud.

Volunteers trekked through the rain to pick up trash and pull weeds around the Arroyo Viejo Park Recreation Center located in East Oakland, pulling everything from candy wrappers to an exercise machine from the Arroyo Viejo Creek. Another group restored the trails at Shepherd Canyon Park in addition to weeding and planting.

Doria Robinson, the event coordinator of the MLK National Day of Service and Celebration, said she felt proud of the program’s progress.

When asked how outdoor restoration pays tribute to King’s work, Robinson pointed out the weeds growing around the creek.

“They reproduce quickly, wiping out the diversity of other plants and animals,” she said.

Volunteers helped remove several Himalayan blackberry bushes and pampas grass in order to give the other plant life a chance to thrive.

“Looking across the room, people from all races and backgrounds were [there] together,” said Robinson, who has coordinated this event through the Watershed Project for the last year and a half. “It was an excuse to get people together who might not have otherwise.”

While many people were there with specific organizations, others came on their own accord.

“I haven’t done any community service, so it’s nice to be here and start the year off right,” said Vince Almares, a sociology major.

SF State was involved in today’s event through JusticeCorps, a community service organization dedicated to providing equal access to legal help. Members of this organization accounted for over half of the volunteers.

“Since it’s a national holiday, we take it as ‘take on day’ rather than a take off day,” said Nazgol Taie, a second year member of JusticeCorps and a criminal justice major at SF State. “It [allows] us to go out there and help our community.”

The organization gives students from four local colleges, including SF State, an opportunity to learn about different types of law, network with attorneys and volunteer within the community.

“Since all our members are students, we have them do 300 hours [of community service], which is equivalent to one full day each week for the academic year,” said Dan Siskind, the JusticeCorps coordinator for the Bay Area.

CSU lobbyists will fight for full funding

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Facing the possibility of losing nearly $313 million in state funding, the California State University system is preparing to retaliate.

On Jan. 12, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger announced plans to slash services across the state, including higher education, K-12, prisons, health care, parks and many social services that Californians rely on, all in an effort to curb $14 billion in expenditures from an unbalanced 2008-09 state budget.

Now, state legislators have until May to revise the budget, giving a cohesive new force of representatives from the Cal State community a chance to speak for itself.

Students from the California State Student Association, teachers from the California Faculty Association, administrators from the CSU Board and unionized school employees have agreed to issue a joint statement, prepared over this coming week, to address the budget cuts.

Together this group is spreading the message that schools should not be cut because they have proved to be part of the solution to the state’s economic crisis.

“As the public university that prepares the majority of California’s workforce,” CSU Chancellor Charles Reed said, “these budget cuts will have a direct impact on the state’s economy and on the key industries that our graduates enter such as nursing, teaching, agriculture, business, public administration and technology.”

For every dollar the state invests in the CSU, $4.41 in spending is generated, providing a $13 billion boost annually to the economy and supporting 207,000 jobs in California, according to a 2005 report released by a private firm, ICF Consulting.

John Travis, a former CFA president now working as a lobbyist, said that, in times of economic turmoil, many often return to school to reeducate themselves.

“This is just the wrong time to cut higher education,” he said.

While they say that the governor’s plans to release 22,000 inmates from state prisons early is doable, locking thousands of students out of classrooms would be a mistake.

Advocates also argue that the return of veterans or active duty servicemen from the Iraq War make public colleges very important in helping them return to society.

Last July, CSU Assistant Vice Chancellor Allison Jones testified in front of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs in favor of California’s “Troops to College” initiative.

At the most recent board meetings, the CSU Chancellor has said that the school system will not stop with merely asking for the $312.9 million in general funds back, but are expecting an additional $74 million to avoid a 10 percent student fee increase.

But while the CSU argues that rising costs would hurt students and a budget cut would deny access to 10,000 students, some legislators are taking into account the system’s recent history of perceived mismanagement and remaining skeptical.

Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco/San Mateo) has been “frustrated” with reports from the Legislative Analyst’s Office that top CSU and UC administrators are being lavishly compensated in a time of economic crisis, spokesman Adam Keigwin said.

“He’s not interested in writing a blank check to higher education, but his commitment is to make sure students don’t suffer,” Keigwin said. “We certainly listen to the students and faculty much more attentively than we do trustees and administrators.”

If the CSU budget is not restored, faculty members stand to possibly lose a salary raise they bargained hard for last year. The contract, according to Travis, leaves open the possibility that the Board of Trustees could reopen negotiation if it is forced to slash campus budgets.

For the time being, the employee union remains focused on the lobbying effort, which, spokeswoman Alice Sunshine said, Reed and Trustee Roberta Achtenberg seem “fully committed to.”

Meanwhile, the non-partisan Legislative Analyst’s Office has issued a report on the governor’s budget proposal that praises him for dealing with the crisis head-on, but criticizes him for slashing funds across the board.

Legislative Analyst Elizabeth Hill said, “the administration’s budget reductions reflect little effort to prioritize and determine which state programs provide essential services to California’s future.”

Student killed in bike accident

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Ever the risk taker, 18-year-old SF State student Lucian Gregg was killed over the winter break in Santa Cruz while riding his fixed-gear bicycle without a helmet on Jan. 2 this year.

The accident, which occurred on East Cliff Drive and Jessie Street, may have involved a collision with a Fed Ex truck, which made a legal right turn onto Jessie Street as Gregg was riding behind the truck going northbound down a hill. He may have collided with the truck or fallen off of his bike while trying to avoid it, Santa Cruz police said.

Gregg, a stagehand and theater major, was a freshman who had just spent his first semester in San Francisco. The Santa Cruz native was staying with his parents in Live Oak at the time of his death.
A preliminary autopsy report listed the cause of death as blunt trauma to the head, likely a result of Gregg not wearing a helmet.

Gregg was described by a friend as “adventurous,” and said it was typical of him to not wear a helmet.
“He was just really adventurous, loved the outdoors, loved riding his bike,” said Jennifer Williams, an 18-year-old English major at the University of San Francisco, who came to know Gregg over the summer in Santa Cruz.

Initially police had difficulty tracking down the truck and driver that may have been involved with the fatal crash because Fed Ex contracts out its vehicles, making it harder to figure out where certain drivers were around the time of the incident, around 2 p.m., said Santa Cruz police spokesman Zach Friend. After ruling out some 60 drivers in the immediate area, investigators believe they now have the proper truck and driver identified.

The driver left the scene of the accident because he may not have known there was an accident, Friend said.

“We have a driver whose time we cannot account for when the incident occurred,” Friend said.

However, his name has not been released and a determination to file criminal charges has not been made, pending the outcome of forensic evidence collected by the State Justice Department.

Friend said he expects the forensic evidence to be released by the end of this week, at which point it will be turned over to the District Attorney’s office, who will decide if criminal charges are appropriate.

Gregg’s death touched off a debate on bicycle safety in Santa Cruz, particularly the use of fixed-gear bicycles. The bikes, popularized by city bike messengers and typically used by track racers, have no standard braking mechanism, which is a violation of the state Vehicle Code. However, a rider can slow the bicycle down by forcibly pedaling backward.

Gregg was traveling at approximately 25 mph when we crashed, police said. He was the second cyclist to die in a crash in Santa Cruz this past year, according to press accounts.

“This was a very serious matter—a life was lost,” Friend said.

Williams, a USF student and fellow Santa Cruz native, said Gregg was gregarious and friendly, and tried to befriend as many people as possible.

“He just really cared about everyone, left a good impression on everyone,” she said. “We would just walk around the city and explore San Francisco.”

She also provided an anecdote of Gregg’s free-spirited, adventurous behavior.

“A lot of people talked about a story how he climbed a tree during lunch hour in high school, and ate his lunch on top of a tree. It caused a big commotion, and nobody knew who he was. Security had to be called, and when he came down everyone had a lot of respect for him,” she said.

“It’s just a day-to-day thing,” she said of coping with the death of her friend. “Our group of friends was really excited to get to know him better. I still miss him a lot.”

Moratorium blocks sports fee proposal

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A California State University fee moratorium stands in the way of SF State’s Recreational Sports Program from acquiring additional funding to sustain intramurals, Club Sports, and Open Gym.

In December, SF State President Robert Corrigan approved a fee increase to raise the RSP fee from $2 to $9 in Fall 2008. The fee request was submitted to the Chancellor’s Office for final approval, but an Oct. 10 memo from the Chancellor’s Budget Office said the office was calling a suspension on “the establishment of new fees and the adjustment of existing fees until the new policy is adopted by the Board of Trustees.”

The board of trustees will review a new fee policy at their March meeting, according to the memo.

The RSP administrators and participants have gathered nearly 2,500 signatures since the Student Fee Advisory Committee approved the request for a fee increase last October. Penny Saffold, vice president of student affairs and dean of students, sent the signatures to Admissions for verification.

“A staggering amount of signatures were valid, and only eight signatures went unaccounted,” said RSP Director Ajani Byrd.

Students currently pay a $55 instructionally related athletics activities fee every semester, and $2 goes toward funding RSP. The Kinesiology Department proposed the $9 RSP fee to alleviate the high demand for its services.

Byrd said he anticipates that the Chancellor’s Office will approve the fee increase so that the RSP can expand their staff.

“I’ll continue to stay optimistic,” Byrd said. “I think [the RSP is] definitely something needed on this campus. It’s not just this campus, but it’s a nationwide movement to increase recreational sports funding. There will be new and bigger and better things on the horizon.”

At a glance: news briefs

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Suspect in grade-changing scandal to appear in court Jan. 30

A former SF State student accused of paying more than $4,000 to falsify 15 grades at his community college will appear in Contra Costa County Superior Court on Jan. 30 to set a date for his trial.

Christopher MacAtulad, of Pittsburg, pleaded not guilty last September to one felony count of conspiring to commit computer fraud. He is one of more than 30 students from Pleasant Hill’s Diablo Valley College who have been charged in one of the Bay Area’s biggest grade scandals.

MacAtulad used his falsified transcripts to obtain admission to SF State in the fall of 2006, according to a complaint filed by District Attorney Dodie Katague. Of the 34 named by prosecutors in July of last year, MacAtulad, who allegedly took out credit card loans to change 15 grades, including eight failing grades, may have benefited the most from the scheme, having far more grades changed than any other student implicated.

The DVC transfer student was one of eight students named with ties to SF State. The university penalized five current students, two who applied for the fall 2007 semester, and one former student after the Admissions Office received corrected transcripts from DVC.

The scandal was uncovered in January 2006 after a DVC instructor noticed a student kept reappearing on his roster with A grades. The instructor contacted DVC officials who began an investigation that discovered student workers in the Admissions and Records Office had changed more than 400 grades over a span of five years.

Four student workers were named in the original complaint filed by prosecutors last July. Two of them, Julian Revilleza and Jeremy Tato, began working with prosecutors to help them nab another 15, who were named in a separate complaint filed in late November.

DVC is the second largest community college feeder school to SF State, sending an average of 280 students a year to the university, according to a California Postsecondary Education Commission report.

SF State freshman application deadline pushed back

Due to the budget cuts made by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, the California State University has bumped its fall 2008 freshmen application deadline to Feb. 1.

The SF State deadline was Jan. 15. “The deadline for SF State’s [fall 2008 freshmen application] was the same time as last year so our date was not really affected,” said Jo Volkert, assistant vice president for enrollment management at SF State.

Students planning to transfer to SF State will have an earlier application deadline. Applications were due on March 28, but SF State has bumped the deadline to March 3.

Volkert’s suggestion to incoming freshmen who have missed the SF State deadline is to apply to other CSUs that have later deadlines, or go to a community college or apply for spring 2009. Applications for spring 2009 will be due in August.

SF State received 28,680 freshmen applications for the fall of 2008 compared to last year’s 24,690 freshmen applications, Volkert said.

The Real World could become your world, open casting calls in SF

On Saturday January 26 open casting calls for MTV’s reality TV series “The Real World” will be held from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Suite 181.

The nightclub is located at 181 Eddy St. by Taylor Street. The show’s producers ask that you bring a recent photograph of yourself (which will not be returned) and a valid form of identification.

Those with a military identification will be allowed to go to the front of the line without waiting.
Producers of the show are looking for “people with strong personalities who are unafraid to speak their minds.”

The show, currently in its 19th season, records the lives of seven strangers living together for several months.

The casting call is for the 21st season which will follow the upcoming one, “The Real World: Hollywood.”

SF State student found stabbed to death at Santa Rosa house party

SF State business student Benjamin Herbert Floriani, 21, was fatally stabbed at a house party in Santa Rosa on the morning of Dec. 15. He was dead when emergency services arrived.

Santa Rosa police were notified approximately at 1:09 a.m. that someone had been stabbed in the 700 block of Blair Place in Santa Rosa.

“When emergency personnel arrived, a male was found deceased on the living floor,” said Sgt. Lisa Banayat of the Santa Rosa Police Department.

Between Saturday, Dec. 15 and Monday, Dec. 17, five suspects connected to the stabbing and three other stabbings at the same party were arrested. Alex Paul Hopper, 20, Matthew Timothy O’Day, 19, and Donald Bittner, 19, were booked on suspicion of murder. Noah H. Minuskin, 19, and Rory O’Day, 18, were booked with alleged accessory to the murder. All of the suspects are residents of Santa Rosa. Minuskin’s bail was set at $500,000, and O’Day was being held without bail.

Three other victims sustained injuries and were initially listed to be in critical condition, but they are now expected to survive, Banayat said. They were described as men in their late teens or early 20s. Their names have not been released.

All of the suspects were arrainged in Sonoma County Superior Court in December, and a preliminary hearing was held yesterday, Jan. 22.

Police aren’t releasing any other details about the slaying, and declined to comment on a motive.
According to the autopsy report, Floriani died of a stab wound to the heart.

Investigators are still looking for witnesses with information regarding the death of Floriani.

Witnesses said a group of men were seen arguing at the party, and that as many as 50 people were in attendance.

Sex educators discuss youth and technology

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Health educators became the students at a conference held at SF State’s downtown campus on Jan. 21 and 22, as they learned more about the impact new technology has on the development of relationships and the health education of Generation Y.

“Sex::Tech,” brought to the campus by the Internet Sexuality Information Services and SF State’s National Sexuality Resource Center, featured four sessions led by several health educators, authors and representatives from related Web sites and organizations all over North America.

Topics ranged from the “social media”—networking Web sites like MySpace and games like “Second Life”— and its influence on sex education to using video games as a way to convey safe sex messages and disease prevention methods to today’s tech-savvy youth.

Nefertiti Altan, a health educator in San Francisco, works with high school students all over the Bay Area to teach them about HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, substance abuse and viewing sex with a positive focus. Working with teens, she said, has opened her eyes to their dependence on the Internet to find health information and develop relationships.

“We’re just beginning to articulate the value of sexual relationships in a virtual reality and how that’s transforming what a relationship is,” Altan, 23, said.

Marguerita Lightfoot, a UCLA psychologist and conference presenter, said 92 percent of children in K-12 had access to a computer at home or school in 2003.

“Within a matter of a few years, it’s become more affordable to [maintain a relationship] online,” Altan said.

However, many households and classrooms view sexuality as “the elephant in the room,” said Cory Silverberg, co-owner of a Toronto sex toy store called Come As You Are. By not talking about sex, he said, it makes sexual pleasure a threat and gives it a negative connotation.

However, because of its increased accessibility, he said that many of today’s youth experience their first sexual encounters online.

“By talking about [sex], the elephant shrinks,” Silverberg said.

The Internet gives teens an outlet to talk about these subjects and access to related health information their way. Web sites such as www.scarleteen.com and www.teenwire.com (moderated by Planned Parenthood) feature “Ask the Expert” and forums to help youth get their questions answered either by “sexperts” or through anonymous conversation with their own peers.

“Barriers are broken by anonymity,” Altan said.

Online accessibility means anyone can make a Web site. Therefore, information published online must be read with caution. While eight out of 10 people search for health information online, 70 percent of these people don’t check the date or sources, said Audacia Ray, executive editor of $pread magazine, which seeks to “destigmatize sex work,” according to its Web site.

Instead, some educators are turning to another popular medium to get their message across: video games.

Leslie Snyder, a professor of communication studies at the University of Connecticut, presented the idea that in a virtual game, safe sexual decisions could be rewarded and risky behavior could result in a consequence.

The “learn by discovery” and role playing could be assessed and tailored to ensure the player would gain a better understanding of sexual health and disease prevention through their exposure to the game.
The conference aimed to ease the public fears about sex and equip adults with a better understanding of technology’s role in today’s sex education.

“I want the way we feel about sex to change in society,” Altan said. Right now, she said, “It’s not honest.”

Earlier application deadlines for CSUs

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Due to the budget cuts made by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, the California State University has bumped its fall 2008 freshmen application deadline to Feb.1.

The SF State deadline was Jan. 15. "The deadline for SF State's [fall 2008 freshmen application] was the same time as last year so our date was not really affected," said Jo Volkert, assistant vice president for enrollment management at SF State.

Students planning to transfer to SF State will have an earlier application deadline. Applications were due on March 28, but SF State has bumped the deadline to March 3.

Volkert's suggestion to incoming freshmen who have missed the SF State deadline is to apply to other CSUs that have later deadlines, go to a community college or apply for spring 2009. Applications for spring 2009 will be due in August.

SF State received 28,680 freshmen applications for the fall of 2008 compared to last year's 24,690 freshmen applications, said Volkert.

SPECIAL REPORT: Death on Martyrs Day

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SANABIS, Bahrain (SFSU) – Ali Jassim Al-Barbari, a 31-year-old bus driver and human rights activist, witnesses the Martyrs Day demonstration turn deadly. On December 17, 2007, members of the Special Security Force (SSF) and Bahraini Police in riot gear prepare to disperse the peaceful crowd. Ali hears the launch of a CS smoke projectile. The 38-millimeter canister rockets over the crowded street and lands among frightened demonstrators.

Within seconds, additional CS smoke projectiles are fired. Loud voices and screaming can be heard along the outer perimeter of the demonstration. Bahraini Police begin firing 38-millimeter baton shells directly at demonstrators. Spent baton cartridges are dropped onto the ground by the advancing police. A prophetic warning printed on the discarded metal cartridges reads, “Ricochet baton shells approximately 3 meters in front of person. Do not fire directly at persons, serious injury or death may result.”

SSF and Bahraini Police pursue Ali and other demonstrators into nearby neighborhoods. Thick clouds of CS smoke can be seen rising above the narrow streets. Scores of people are detained and beaten to the ground by the authorities. Evidence suggests that Ali is shot by baton rounds, exposed to CS gas and possibly beaten by police.

Fighting for each breath, Ali manages to run from the Sanabis Village to his home in the Jid Hafss area. He collapses near the front door. “They destroyed us,” Ali whispers to his brother. “I feel like I am dying.” White foam drains from the corners of Ali’s mouth.

Ali is carried into a car and driven to a nearby private hospital. The Bahrain International Hospital refuses to admit Ali and directs him to another hospital. He dies en route to the Al-Sulaimania Governmental Hospital.

“Inside the hospital, I could see round bruises on my brother's arms, legs and chest,” says Hassam Jassim Mohammed, Ali’s younger brother. “The police killed my brother.”

The death of Ali has signaled the beginning of a large-scale coordinated attack by the Bahraini Government against the Human Rights movement. Since Martyrs Day the government has arrested more than forty-five activists. Charges against the detainees include illegal gathering, rioting, damaging a police vehicle, theft of a weapon, theft of ammunition, possession of a weapon without permits, possession of ammunition without a permit, and attempted murder.

Four days after Martyrs Day, a convoy of more than thirty vehicles speeds into the village of Sanabes. Members of the SSF and Bahraini Police rapidly surround the house owned by the father-in-law of Mohammed Abdullah Al-Sengais. Mohammed heads the Committee to Combat High Prices. Without warning, the authorities force open the door to the residence and violently arrest Mohammed in front of his terrified family.

Two weeks later, his wife is granted a ten-minute visitation inside the jail. The following day, at the Islamic Action Society, Mohammed's wife discusses her husband and the urgent need for international support for all the arbitrarily detained activists.

“He smelled very bad. I could see deep cuts on both of his wrists. His eyes looked abnormal and had difficulty focusing. My husband informed me that his eyes have been covered since the date of his arrest.

“I hope that the United States stands with us in this case. We fear for the lives of all the detainees. The Bahraini Government is criminal. I hope that the world can hear our voices.”

That same day, I speak with Hassan Mushima, General Secretary of the HAQ Movement. The aim of the organization is to secure a legitimate democracy and civil liberties for all people in Bahrain. Hassan discusses the political motivation behind the recent detention of activists and the historical significance of Martyrs Day.

“The detention of the activists is an attempt by the Al-Kalifa government to shift the attention of the people from the killing of Ali Jassim to the burning of a police vehicle and the alleged theft of weapons.

“On Martyrs Day we remember those people killed by the government. Some were shot in the villages. Others were tortured in the prisons. We must not forget their deaths. Their deaths are not without purpose.”

U.S. President George W. Bush did not discuss Martyrs Day during a recent visit to Bahrain. His visit is part of a Middle East tour aimed at securing regional support on several key topics, including Iran. A confrontation last week between three U.S. vessels and Iranian boats in the Strait of Hormuz demonstrates rising tension between the two polarized countries.

In Bahrain, King Hamad Bin Isa Al-Khalifa and President Bush are entertained by dancers armed with swords and rifles during a ceremony inside a palace near the capital of Manama. “Our two nations share a common vision for the future of the Middle East,” Bush says. Outside the palace walls, approximately 300 Bahrainis gather near the U.S. Embassy to voice their opposition to current U.S. policies in the region.

The unpopular policies of the U.S. are not the only problems facing the demonstrators. Sectarian discrimination by the Sunni led nepotistic Government of Bahrain, against the marginalized Shi’a majority, is a destabilizing social factor. This dynamic contributes to widespread social problems within the small country. Manifestations are seen in mounting unemployment, widespread poverty, cost of living increases, and egregious human rights violations.

In February of this year, the United Nations, under new mandates for member states, will inspect Bahrain. It is unclear if representatives from the U.N. will meet with unsanctioned organizations such as the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYSHR).

Mohammed Al-Maskati, the President of BYSHR, is due in court on January 21, 2008. He has been charged with operating an unregistered society.

“The wants of the people are not unreasonable,” says Mohammed during a recent interview. “We want the Bahrani Government to follow the law and to serve the interests of the people.” If convicted, Mohammed could serve up to six-months in prison.

James Lee is on assignment in the Middle East for the Golden Gate [X]Press Online, a publication of the Journalism Department at San Francisco State University.

Mavericks waves in surfing's heavy weights

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HALF MOON BAY, Calif.--The final round of the Mavericks Surf Contest brought together six of the world’s best surfers, who battled the 40-foot waves for a $30,000 prize, but in the beginning of the final round the finalists said it was for the love of surfing and promised to split the purse no matter who won, said 2008 champion Greg Long from San Clemente, California.

While in the water the final six took no prisoners as they jockeyed for monster waves caused by a receding tide. Long said he was waiting for only the biggest waves and at one point thought he should follow the veterans and take what he could, but his patience paid off with a perfect score for his giant drop down the face of a wave and his finesse for riding the rest of the wave out.

Defending champion Grant “Twiggy” Baker landed in second place after heading straight off the top of a 30-foot wave and fighting through white water to surf a significant wall of water stretching in front of him. Baker will take home $12,000 in prize money and the Cliff Bar Green Room award for catching the best tube. Jamie Sterling, Tyler Smith, Grant Washburn, and Evan Slater rounded out the top finalists.

“Mavericks is kind of the king of the big waves pageant,” Baker said and it’s always a thrill to get back out two of his favorite surfing spots – Ocean Beach and Mavericks.

“These guys have been heroes and idols of mine forever,” Long said. “I’m humbled and awed just to be in the water with them.” Long, Washburn, Sterling and Baker have been in contests together for years, including ones in Hawaii and South Africa.

Four of the six finalists are Californians but Grant Washburn, a San Francisco resident for more than 20 years said “it’s great to have the best surfers. The best from Africa, the best from Hawaii, from everywhere. It makes everybody play better.”

The waves at Mavericks break so far from shore that judges were on boats and the entire contest was shown live on a massive TV on the beach and in AT&T Park. Many fans scrambled up a crumbling bluff or to the top of the bluff for a better view. In 2006 several fans were seriously injured by falling rocks so organizers and the San Mateo County Sheriffs escorted fans from the dangerous ground.

Many spectators stood with their backs to the ocean to watch the jumbotron TV, but Kate Lentz, 19, an SF State Marketing major and Stacy Dellens, 18, a Nutrition major, tried to watch everything without the help of the cameras.

“It’s hard to see anything, but I’m loving the atmosphere,” Dellens said. The San Diego native said she enjoyed the sights and people of her first surfing competition while Lentz, from Santa Cruz, said “It’s really comfortable, it’s like being home.”

Each of the four 45-minute long heats gave surfers an opportunity to ride up to ten waves, keeping the score for the best three and doubling the points from their best ride. The top three contestants in each heat move on to one of the two semifinal rounds. Again, the top three of the six surfers in each heat move on to an hour-long final round.

The first three set of contestants saw some huge waves in the early morning Half Moon Bay fog, enthralling the fans with wipe-outs while Ryan Seelbach, who dominated the third heat, but didn’t make it past semifinals, and most of the two dozen surfers caught waves worthy of the only big wave contest on the mainland.

Matt Ambrose, 46, who has been surfing Rockaway Beach in Pacifica most of his life, said he was happy to make the semifinals with such a talented and wonderful group of athletes. “Everyone has pretty much a good vibe out there,” he said “even when it was a little bit dog-eat-dog in the last round (semifinals).”

The high tide ushered in few waves, bringing the competition level up a notch. “It was more dog-eat-dog in the last round,” Pacifica resident Matt Ambrose, 46, said. Without enough waves to go around, surfers split waves – one heading left and another right – with spectacular results.

Shane Desmond started deep and took a long wall, doubling back and riding out a little white water along with Tyler Smith, who carved a good wave, dropped down the wall and hung on through the break.

Sterling, a Hawaiian native, caught three great waves in the first half of the final round including one of the biggest waves of the day with another hair-raising drop down the front. Although all the surfers ride huge boards, Sterling is known for his massive Rhino Chaser and his ability to maintain control of the big gun while catching waves smaller boards wouldn’t have a chance of riding.

Dozens of boats and jetskies hauled or rescued surfers from the break point back to the set area, including a couple surfers and their nine or ten foot surf boards, according to event organizers.

Like each round before, Evan Slater wiped out on his first ride then came back strong for a long ride with only 12 minutes left in the final.

The first ride of the final round wasn’t until almost 20 minutes into the hour-long heat, tempting judges to restart the clock, Smith said. “I thought it was going to go flat, but a set came in and the contest really got started.”

Even though Long, 24, was the youngest surfer in the water he knew he needed a game plan. “I wanted to take it to the next level, take some chances.” Long said. “It was the final and I was going to give it 110 percent.”

Long started surfing when he was 10 years old off the coast of his home town, then fell in love with the big waves at Todos Santos, a small island off the coast of Ensenada, Mexico.

Mavericks, which invites only the best 24 surfers in the world, keeps the contest on hold from December through the end of March like many other contests around the world. In 2007 the contest was never called because challenging waves never made an appearance.

“Sharing it with my five of my best friends was great,” Long said. “I’ve already won in my mind.”

Founder and Contest Director Jeff Clark gave out awards and greeted competitors after the final round. Clark started the Mavericks Surf Contest, originally called Men Who Ride Mountains, in 1999 with Quicksilver sponsoring the event.

This year Mavericks featured a “climate neutral” event with the help of co-sponsor Clif Bar & Co. to help focus on saving the delicate marine ecosystem at Mavericks Surf Break, according to event organizers. For the second year fans could watch the event live at AT&T Park in San Francisco or online at myspace.com, while those who made the trek out to see the event live were kept in check by volunteers from Save The Wave Foundation and other green groups.

State Sen. Leland Yee whistleblower in Jew case

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In a press release on Monday, State Senator Leland Yee (D- San Francisco/San Mateo County) revealed he received information regarding the former San Francisco Supervisor Ed Jew, that Jew was attempting to extort funds from the Quickly tapioca owners.

"As a Senator sworn to uphold the Constitution and as someone who has dedicated my career in public service to protecting the interests of our residents, I have the legal and moral responsibility to pass such information on to the proper authorities," said Yee.

Jew recently resigned from the San Francisco Board of Supervisors last week and in return, he will not face ethical and civil act charges.

Carmen Chu is the official replacement for District 4 as she was sworn in last week on Friday by Mayor Newsom.

UPDATE: Student identified in bicycle accident

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For the past week, the Santa Cruz Police Department has been investigating in the death of SF State student and Santa Cruz County resident Lucian Gregg, 18.

Gregg was riding his bike at the corner of East Cliff Drive and Jesse Street on Jan. 2 at 3:08 p.m. where he was found dead on the ground. Witnesses said that a FedEx delivery truck was at the scene of the incident, which launched a search for FedEx vehicles that were making deliveries that day in the area.

In a new press release by the Santa Cruz Police Department, investigators have reviewed 2,000 delivery records from FedEx, interviewed 60 drivers, reviewed footage from nearby businesses and went door-to-door in the area of the incident. Police are saying that FedEx has been very cooperative in the investigation.

Police have towed a FedEx truck that was not accounted for based on the delivery records. The driver will be interviewed by the police. The Department of Justice have been called by the police to help with forensic tests on the vehicle and are working with the coroner to determine if the vehicle had caused the injuries on Gregg.

After the forensic tests are done, police will determine if any criminal act occurred.

Suspended Supervisor Ed Jew resigns

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San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera held a press conference today with Mayor Gavin Newsom and Stuart Hanlon, attorney for suspended San Francisco Supervisor Ed Jew to announce they will be dropping two charges against Jew in exchange for his resignation according to a press release by the City Attorney's office.

Herrera and Mayor Newsom both sought his ousting when he allegedly violated City Charter residency requirements when Jew ran for office in 2006. But late yesterday, Herrera reached an agreement to drop the civil action and for Mayor Newsom to drop the charges of misconduct.

Mayor Newsom filed the charges of misconduct on Sept. 25 to the San Francisco Ethics Commission and Herrera filed the civil action on Nov. 1 to the San Francisco Superior Court. Herrera was seeking approval from the state attorney to remove Jew from office.

"After months of contention, between what were clearly strongly-held but opposing views, let us recognize that Supervisor Ed Jew has also acted in what he believes to be in San Francisco's best interests. This is not a day to claim victory or vindication, but rather a day to put acrimony behind us,” said Herrera in a press release.

Jew's resignation is effective Jan. 11. He represented District 4 also known as the Sunset District. When Mayor Newsom suspended Jew, he appointed Carmen Chu to represent District 4.

Storm hits the Bay Area hard

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One of the biggest storms that the Bay Area has seen in the past few years hit today flooding city streets, closing freeways and bridges, delaying airport flights and causing power outages throughout the city.

Gusts of wind have been up to 70 miles per hour in some areas of the Bay Area.

The Richmond/San Rafael Bridge was closed for several hours but now has reopened. Highway 101 in San Rafael has reopened. The Alameda Oakland Ferry service has resumed service according to 511.org, but the Alameda Harbor Ferry will remain closed for the rest of the day.

Muni also experienced delays in San Francisco as trees came down in many neighborhoods re-routing several bus lines. The first Muni/pedestrian accident occurred on the day of the big storm causing delays at the West Portal Station.

SFO is still experiencing delays and canceled flights. Call ahead for flight information.

The storm is heading toward the Lake Tahoe area so if you are heading in that area today chains will be required.

There are still hundreds of thousands of residents without power. PG&E says it could take the entire weekend to restore power to everyone.

For more updates on freeway closures and BART and Muni delays visit www.511.org.

SPECIAL REPORT: Searching for good light in the Maldives

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GNAVIYANI ATOLL, the Republic of Maldives (SFSU) – Ahead, poncho-draped silhouettes stand and kneel along the harbor's edge. A passing motorcycle headlight reveals dozens of rain soaked faces staring in my direction. Neither the late hour nor the steady rain has concealed my intrusion. I walk between rows of parked motorcycles and into the ever-quieting throng of local Muslim fisherman.

Lines of approaching headlights indicate the impending arrival of additional men from the nearby villages. This bustling outdoor fish market serves as the unofficial local news hub. Tonight, the men speak ardently about the previous days arrival of the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU).

On December 15, 2007 elements of the 11th MEU began a Medical Civil Action Program (MEDCAP) and a Dental Civil Action Program (DENCAP) in order to foster good will between the U.S. and the predominantly Muslim nation of the Maldives. Both Civil Action Programs are scheduled to end in just five days time.

“Who will help us after the Marines go back to their ship?” Abdulla Ibrahim, a local fisherman, asks rhetorically. “What if there are unforeseen complications? I will not let the American doctors see my family.”

Behind Abdulla, I witness the outline of a large knife in motion. The wielder, an aged fisherman, squats over a mound of dead fish. Each pass of the knife-edge cleaves through scales and bones. Rainwater combines with blood from the gutted fish and streams into the crowded street.

The next morning, I arrive at the Gnaviyani Atoll Hospital. Light from an overhead lamp is directed onto the face of eight-year-old Khadeeja Nava Ali. Commander (CDR) Jason Ross, a U.S. Navy MD is holding a number fifteen blade in his gloved hand. He slowly makes a one-centimeter incision below the right eye of Khadeeja.

CDR Ross is performing a surgical procedure called a dacryocystorhinostomy (DCR). The DCR will attempt to clear the congenital occlusion of Khadeeja’s right tear duct. An occluded duct causes the affected eye to constantly tear.

Outside the operating room, I talk with CDR Ross. He recognizes that apprehension towards the MEDCAP and DENCAP is not without merit. CDR Ross speaks about the lack of postoperative care for his Maldivian patients.

“The brevity of our medical mission is not ideal. We are unable to provide patients with long-term postoperative care.

“I will not be here in six days to remove the sutures from below Khadeeja’s eye. Under normal conditions, I would monitor her recovery over a period of six months with regularly scheduled follow-up visits.”

The next afternoon, two U.S. Marine CH-46 Sea Knight Helicopters land in a soccer field adjacent to the Gnaviyani Atoll Hospital. Ambassador Robert Blake Jr. exits from one of the aircrafts.

He is the U.S. Ambassador to both Sri Lanka and the Republic of Maldives. Ambassador Blake is followed by a small delegation comprised of both U.S. Military personnel and officials from the Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF).

During the brief visit, I speak with Ambassador Blake about the lack of postoperative care available to Maldivian patients who elect to receive treatment at the MEDCAP and/or DENCAP.

“These procedures are very simple,” Ambassador Blake says. “Our military doctors are highly trained and we plan to return again next year.”

Ambassador Blake climbs through the crew door of a waiting helicopter. The aircrafts anti-collision lights pulse as the Marine pilot takes the helicopter to an altitude of 150 feet and travels south towards the Indian Ocean.

That evening, I am invited to have dinner with Abdulla Ibrahim and his family. Marine Corporal Aaron Denning joins me. We are sitting among Abdulla’s male relatives at a table in a dimly lit room. I watch as the young Marine eats a mixture of boiled yams, rice and fish.

After the meal, we move to an outdoor patio. Green algae and water lilies conceal a nearby pond. Abdulla lights a cigarette and discusses his opposition to the U.S. Military.

“Earlier today, two of your helicopters flew over my house. I do not like the sound they make. I have both CNN and BBC on my television. My family has watched U.S. helicopters launch missiles at Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“This is how we see your military. This is how we see your country. Why should I bring my family to your doctors?”

After a long pause, Abdulla offers Corporal Denning a cigarette. The Marine hangs the cigarette in his mouth and accepts a lighter from Abdulla’s son. Corporal Denning lights his cigarette and exhales slowly. He flicks the ash off the end of his cigarette and begins to speak.

“I miss my wife. As Marines we are often apart from our families. I joined the Marines to make a difference in the world. We are here as your friends.”

The two men talk for several hours. After the last cigarette is smoked, Abdulla decides to allow his family to be screened by the Dental Civil Action Program at the Gnaviyani Atoll Hospital.

The following morning, I travel by motorcycle to the home of Khadeeja Nava Ali. The incision made during the DCR is healing well. The young girl is sitting in the living room on a bench next to her older sister.

Both girls start laughing at the sight of my camera. Khadeeja and I walk outside in search of good light for her portrait photograph. We find it on a street in her village.

Three days later, I meet with Corporal Denning aboard the USS Cleveland (LPD 7) in the Indian Ocean. Corporal Denning speaks openly about his recent experience in the Maldives.

“Abdulla did not fit my preconceived image of a Muslim. This experience has expanded my views of the world. He welcomed me into his home. He shared his table with me. We are not that different.”

Before departing from the USS Cleveland, I speak with Navy Captain John P. LaBanc, DDS, MS. He comments on the limitations of the Civil Action Programs offered at the Gnaviyani Atoll Hospital.

“MEDCAPS and DENCAPS are conducted with good intentions, but often have unintended consequences. They are aimed at helping the people using the medical and dental capability organic to the MEU.

“Most often we go into a foreign country and provide the medical and dental care that we can, not the care the people need or expect…”

James Lee is an undergraduate student at S.F. State University. He is currently embedded as a photojournalist with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit. Stay tuned for more from his journey.

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