• American Women Reach their Destination

    • 01/29/2017
    • Melina Paris
    • Feature
    • Comments are off

    By Melina Paris, Contributing Writer

    I caught up with Nicolassa Galvez and Allysandra Nighswonger as they approached Louisville, Ky. They were on their way home from the Women’s March in Washington, D.C.

    “It was overwhelming, all the signs and all the people,” said Galvez on Jan. 29, the day after the march. “There were a couple times I got choked up. Like on the train as we rode by, all these women were screaming and waving at us.”

    Galvez and Nighswonger named their journey the Road to the American Woman.

    The logistics of the march were a little confusing. There were delays starting the march and the people exceeded the capacity of the National Mall. Although the march was scheduled for 1 p.m. the group women didn’t start marching until about  4 p.m. Eventually people took it upon themselves to start moving.

    “Once we actually got marching there was an electricity and a sense of camaraderie,” Nighswonger said. “There were so many different signs for many different causes, all rallying together.”

    From politicians and celebrities, a wide range of people spoke at the event, including mothers of people who died through acts of violence, such as hate crimes or police brutality.

    Singer Janelle Monae, addressed the mothers in a powerful performance. A drum was struck four times and the mother’s called out the name of a victim. The crowd responded by chanting, “Say her or his name!”

    “The mothers looked so emotional,” Galvez said. “The music was playing with the beat of the drums to the chants. It was very emotional and it was so good to see those mothers getting the respect they deserved. That was even more powerful than marching.”

    The march was packed and the women couldn’t see where the march began or ended. Organizers underestimated the crowd and the crowd underestimated the patience needed for such an event.

    “You have to get there, listen to these voices you won’t have a chance to listen to all at once again,” Nighswonger said. “To be there, with it being so powerful, you have to step out of yourself or your own agenda to listen because there are so many powerful stories and causes to stand by, but we have to actually stand together.”

    Nighswonger suggested having an action team of four friends who all carry out actions together. Whether you’re donating to causes or writing to your representatives, it helps to keep each other accountable.

    On the Sunday after the March, the Los Angeles Times had front page coverage of the March but the headline asked, “Will the unity last?” Galvez and Nighswonger shared their thought on this question.

    “One article I read said the Black Lives Matter and Occupy movement were so broad it never moved forward,” Galvez said. “Do we want to get Trump out of office? Do we want to save Planned Parenthood?

    “We do have to be conscious of what we want to do. We have to have one issue and go with it. Also it has to help the most marginalized. It can’t be a white feminist movement.”

    Galvez gave the example of the wage inequality.

    “If you’re complaining about making 75 cents on the dollar but you don’t even know that you’re Latina and black sisters are making 55 and 65 cents (respectively), you don’t get it,” Galvez said. “For instance, if we picked wage equality as the one issue then we have to start with Latina’s. We all work to make sure that they raise their wages, then all the black women’s wages and then it will all rise together.

    The women decided they would look forward from this point.

    “On the way to D.C. it was more about what is Trump going to do, but coming back it’s not speculation anymore,” Nighswonger said. “We want to get into what is really happening and how the administration’s plans affect us and the marginalized people around us.”

    The women are keeping their energy up by drinking veggie smoothies and adding boosts like protein and spirulina.

    The women added two cities to their trip. After Colorado, they will stop in Evanston, Wyoming.

    “Now there is the whole conversation now about how the agriculture economy turned into the prison economy and that has happened there,” said Galvez, about Bakersfield .

    Their project, to interview women across the nation inspired Galvez’s mother, her friends and her cousin, who all marched and maybe wouldn’t have done so otherwise. They all shared to the Road to the American Woman Facebook page the day of the Marches.

    “We marched by the Trump tower, on Pennsylvania Avenue,” Galvez said. “First people started chanting ‘boo’, then it changed to ‘Love Trumps Hate.’ It was going in a good direction.”

    Read about their journey to D.C. here. Click here read about their next adventure on the road.

    Check out their website: http://roadtotheamericanwoman.com/

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  • Ports Host Joint Clean Air Plan Workshop

    The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach will host a joint community workshop on Jan. 24 to gather input on strategies released late this past year to update the Clean Air Action Plan, or CAAP. The CAAP was adopted in 2006 and has dramatically reduced pollution from maritime-related sources that operate in and around the ports. The workshop is open to the public.
    Time: 6 to 8 p.m. Jan. 24
    Details: www.polb.com, www.portoflosangeles.org
    Venue: Banning’s Landing Community Center, 100 E. Water St., Wilmington

    International Terminal FIS Facility

    On Jan. 24, the Long Beach City Council is projected to vote on the International Terminal FIS facility, which would make Long Beach Airport an international airport.
    Time: 5 p.m. Jan. 24
    Details: https://longbeach.legistar.com
    Venue: City Hall, 333 W. Ocean Blvd., Long Beach

    Homeless Count

    Join the San Pedro Homeless Count to get the official count of what homelessness looks like in the community. These statistics are used to bring services and housing to the area.
    Time:  8 to 11 p.m. Jan. 25
    Details: (302) 588-7952; www.theycountwillyou.org
    Venue: Harbor Community Police Station, 2175 John S. Gibson Blvd., San Pedro

    Street, Shelter Point-in-Time Count

    The 8th biennial Long Beach Homeless Count will be conducted on Jan. 26. The count is offered in two shifts. The first shift begins at 5 a.m. and the second shift begins at 8 a.m.
    Volunteers will canvas one of 47 map segments with a trained team to complete surveys. Street count volunteers must be 18 years or older.
    Time: 5 and 8 a.m. Jan. 26
    Details: (562) 570-4588; http://tinyurl.com/street-shelter-PIT

    Community Emergency Response Training

    Residents and neighbors may need to rely upon one another following a major disaster. Training is available through the Los Angeles County Fire Department’s Community Emergency Response Training  program, which will take place over 8 sessions.  Call to register or register online.
    Time: 6:30  to 9 p.m. Jan. 27, 30, 31, and Feb. 1, 2, 3, 8 and 9
    Cost: Free
    Details: (310) 952-1786; www.fire.lacounty.gov/cert
    Venue: Carson Community Center, 801 E. Carson St., Carson

    Shred & E-Waste Event

    The Hughes Middle School Environmental Science class is hosting and Andrea Testa Realtor is sponsoring the annual shred and e-waste event and fundraiser. The first five boxes are free.
    Time: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Jan. 28
    Cost: Free
    Venue: Hughes Middle School, basketball playground, 3846 California Ave., Long Beach

    Public Hearing of the Mobilehome Park Rental Review Board

    A public hearing on Colony Cove Mobile Estates’ Capital Improvement rent increase application is scheduled.
    Time: 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Feb. 1
    Venue: Helen Kawagoe Council Chambers, 701 E. Carson St., Carson

    The CART Team Needs Training Volunteers

    For The Child is a new Child Abuse Response Team in February. The Child Abuse Response Team provides emotional support and crisis intervention to children when forensic medical exams and law enforcement interviews are necessary. The program utilizes carefully selected community volunteers who receive 40 hours of specialized training to serve as the child  advocates.
    Details: (562) 548-0034; District2@longbeach.gov

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  • Atmospheric River Storms Bring Hope of Droughts End

    At least temporarily, California’s drought has been broken by a string of  atmospheric river storms originating in the vicinity of Hawaii. Atmospheric rivers are jet streams of moist air, tens to hundreds of miles wide, which can carry 7.5 to 15 times as much water vapor as the Mississippi River at its mouth. A month-long series of AR storms in 1861 and ‘62 flooded the entire LA Basin, and many other parts of the state, creating a 300-mile lake in the San Joaquin Valley.

    The current series of storms destroyed a California landmark, the iconic “Pioneer Cabin” sequoia, which is thought to be more than a thousand years old and is the most famous of the handful of tunneled-through sequoias in the state. It was toppled by the storm and shattered when it hit the ground. The initial set of storms removed most of Northern California from official drought status, according the Drought Monitor Index weekly update on January 12. It replenished surface water reserves across the state, but it will require multiple wet years to fully replenish California’s aquifers.

    It’s also possible this year will be anomalous. Global warming intensifies AR storms on one hand, but also makes droughts more extreme. Multi-decade mega-droughts are projected to be increasingly likely this century, and we may still be in the midst of the first one. It will take at least one or two more wet winters before Californians can breathe easy again on that score.

    Teacher Arrested For Child Porn

    SAN PEDRO — Daniel O’Connell, a physics teacher at Mary Star of the Sea High School, was arrested for possession of child pornography on Jan. 10 by Los Angeles Police Department detectives with special training in handling online crimes against children.

    Investigators began scrutinizing O’Connell after receiving a tip from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children that O’Connell was having inappropriate contact with minors he met on a mathematics tutoring website. They showed up at O’Connell’s Rancho Palos Verdes home with a search warrant and booked him at LAPD 77th Regional Jail, where he is being held on $20,000.00 bail.

    People with  any additional  information, or additional victims are urged to call (562) 624-4027 or visit www.lapdonline.org. Click on “Anonymous Web Tips” under the “Get Involved-Crime Stoppers” menu to submit an online tip.

    Woman Killed on Knight Avenue in Long Beach

    LONG BEACH — On Jan. 10, Susan Garcia, a 33 year-old resident of Long Beach, was shot to death on the 6300 block of Knight Avenue. Long Beach Police Department officers responded to the area at about 7:30 p.m. after reports that two people were shot.

    Officers found Garcia with a gunshot wound to the upper torso. The Long Beach Fire Department declared her dead at the scene. A man also was shot in the torso and was taken a local hospital in critical condition. John McVoy, a 35-year-old resident of Corona was detained by witnesses until police officers arrived and took him into custody.He was booked for murder and attempted murder, and is being  held on $2 million bail.

    The relationship between the victims and the suspect is still to be determined. The shooting is not gang related. Anyone with information is urged to call (562) 570-7244 or anonymously visit www.lacrimestoppers.org.

    LB Man Convicted for Producing Child Pornography

    LONG BEACH — On Jan. 11, Long Beach resident Christopher Michael Salisbury was sentenced to 60 years in prison and a lifetime of supervised release for two counts of child pornography.

    Salisbury, 38, also was ordered to pay a $250,000 fine. After his release, he must register as a sex offender wherever he resides, works or attends school.

    According to Salisbury’s plea agreement, he sexually abused two minors — beginning when each victim was about five years old — while residing in Maryland between 2006 and 2013. Salisbury produced images and videos of himself and the minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct. Salisbury used video and photo editing software to compile videos of his sexual abuse  that included music, text and other editing.

    Additionally, Salisbury regularly accessed the internet through a network specifically designed to facilitate anonymous communication, commonly referred to as the “dark web.” Salisbury used the network to find and join a hidden website whose primary purpose was to advertise and distribute child pornography. Salisbury used the “dark web” and his membership in the hidden website to view, download, receive, and collect thousands of images and videos of child pornography.

    LBPD Chief Appoints New Commander

    LONG BEACH — On Jan. 13, Long Beach Police Department selected 19-year veteran Chief Robert Luna Berkenkamp for the position of commander. Berkenkamp began his career with LBPD in 1997, was promoted to sergeant in 2007, and to lieutenant in 2015.

    Berkenkamp has worked a variety of assignments: patrol, field training officer, directed enforcement, SWAT, critical incident management and event planning section. Most recently he oversaw the special enforcement section, which includes SWAT, the K-9 detail and air support.

    ILWU Member Sentenced to 41 Months in Prison

    SAN PEDRO —  David Gomez, a member of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 13, was sentenced to 41 months in federal prison for his role in a scheme in which two medical clinics submitted more than a $250,000 in bills to the union’s health care plan. The chiropractic services were not provided or were not medically necessary.

    Gomez, 53, was convicted in October of 20 counts of mail fraud. Gomez has been in custody since a federal jury returned its guilty verdicts.

    The ILWU represents dockworkers at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. Members of the union receive benefits, including health care benefits, through the ILWU-Pacific Maritime Association Welfare Plan.

    According to the evidence presented at trial, Gomez, a San Pedro resident, and his co-defendant, Sergio Amador, opened a clinic in Long Beach in 2009 that operated under the name Port Medical and provided medical and chiropractic care. The next year, they opened a second clinic operating under the same name in San Pedro.

    Gomez and Amador also created medical management companies that they used to receive funds generated by the medical clinics, which they then used to pay themselves and to pay incentives to ILWU members. These incentives were often paid as “sponsorships” of basketball or softball teams, with the understanding that the ILWU member receiving the “sponsorship” would visit, and encourage other team members to visit, Port Medical.

    According to the evidence presented at trial, Port Medical chart entries were falsified to indicate that ILWU members and their dependents, including children as young as 5, had received repeated chiropractic services, including multiple sessions of massage therapy, that they had not. To accomplish this, ILWU members were asked to sign their names on multiple sign-in stickers that were used to create the fabricated chart entries, or their signatures on stickers affixed to the chart entries were simply forged.

    Other evidence at trial related to instructions provided to Port Medical massage therapists on how to craft chart entries to maximize billing and make services appear to be medically necessary, a requirement for them to be covered by the ILWU-PMA Welfare Plan. Included were instructions to massage therapists never to write that a patient had indicated “no complaints,” and to make sure not to copy or write chart entries “exactly the same each time, change things up a little!!!”

    According to court documents, a conservative assessment determined that the total amount of fraudulent bills was $258,913, and the health plan paid out $228,440. At the sentencing hearing, U.S. District Judge R. Gary Klausner ordered Gomez to pay $201,000 in restitution to the health plan.

    Amador pleaded guilty this past year to one count of mail fraud and is scheduled to be sentenced on April 6.

    Controller Reports Ineffective Oversight of City’s WorkSource Centers

    LOS ANGELES — On Jan. 13, Controller Ron Galperin issued a review of the city’s Economic and Workforce Development Department selection and monitoring of Los Angeles’ job resource sites, known as WorkSource Centers.  The City’s 17 locations provide job training, counseling and employment referral services to job seekers and employers.

    The Controller’s Office undertook an evaluation of the development department’s process in selecting nonprofit service providers following an investigation by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office of a service provider, which was a center operator for both the city and the county of Los Angeles. Executives of the Chicana Service Action Center, which was a city service provider for about 25 years are facing felony charges stemming from allegations of conspiracy, embezzlement and misappropriation of public funds. The center also is alleged to have falsified information about clients and placements. The center operated one downtown location through 2013, and center began operating a location for the city in Boyle Heights until June 2015, when the city cancelled its contract for the center with the center. That center is now operated by a different service provider.

    The Controller looked to evaluate department’s processes in selecting service providers in order to ensure better selection and oversight of all the city’s job center operators. The report finds the City has insufficient controls to ensure appropriate monitoring of service providers; inadequate processes to detect fraud, waste, and/or abuse; and a need to adopt best practices that would help identify unsuitable service providers early on.

    The controller’s recommendations include:

    •                     A much more thorough review process and oversight of service providers;
    •                     Better communication between city departments; and
    •                     Regularly updated performance evaluations.

    Jan Perry, the general manager of the department has initiated numerous new controls. The department has also now agreed to the creation of a compliance task force in partnership with the controller.

    The review, along with the Controller’s other audits, reports, open data and more, is available at www.lacontroller.org or http://tinyurl.com/WorkSourceReport.

    Record Year for Ports

    The idle container shipping fleet has soared to 1.7 million TEU in 2016, the Dec. 23 edition of West Coast Sailors reported.

    The expansion was driven by Hanjin’s collapse and by carriers withdrawing ships from service at a rapidly in an attempt to limit the impact of chronic overcapacity and weak demand.

    The number of idle ships has increased from 238 vessels in November 2015 with a combined capacity of about 900,000 twenty-foot equivalent units to 435 ships aggregating 1.7 million TEUs in early November of this year, according to the maritime research, consulting and advisory services company, Drewry.

    At the beginning of 2015, idle containerships comprised just 2.5 percent of the global fleet, while ships laid up around the world now account for 9 percent of the global fleet. The growth of the idle fleet may have been rapid. Of the 1.7 million TEUs, Hanjin Shipping generated 36 percent of that capacity during the past quarter, when the carrier went bankrupt.

    The former Hanjin-operated fleet accounted for 622,958 TEUs, and of this, about 200,000 TEUs were for containerships of more than 10,000 TEUs from discontinued TransPacific and Asia-Europe services.

    About 600,000 TEUs of capacity has also been scrapped this year, without which the idle fleet would have grown higher. Yet, such is the surplus vessel overhang that even with around 13 percent of the global fleet now scrapped or idling, the rebalancing of supply and demand remains elusive.

    Cargo volumes at the Port of Los Angeles reached 8,856,782 TEUs in 2016.

    December was particularly strong, at about 796,536 container units. December imports increased 22.6 percent to 394,217 TEUs, slong with a 23.5 percent rise in empty containers, while exports shot up nearly 25.6 percent to 164,900 container units. Overall in 2016, cargo increased 8.5 percent compared to 2015.

    However, at Port of Long Beach cargo traffic fell 5.8 percent in 2016 to almost 6.8 million container units.

    December was even weaker, falling 8 percent from the previous December as only 549,000 container units moved through the docks.  Imports decreased 8.2 percent to 271,599 TEUs. Exports fell 2.5 percent to 122,933 TEUs, while empties declined 11.4 percent to 154,397 TEUs.

    The Aug. 31 Hanjin Shipping bankruptcy may be the cause of the diversion of cargo between the two ports. Hanjin was a majority stakeholder at POLB’s largest container terminal. Much of Hanjin’s cargo went to other shipping lines that have agreements to call on the POLA, not Long Beach.

    The Long Beach Harbor Commission had approved an agreement for a subsidiary of Mediterranean Shipping Co. to take over the long-term lease at the terminal formerly home to Hanjin.

    More detailed cargo numbers for POLA can be found at www.portoflosangeles.org/maritime/stats.asp.

    More detailed cargo numbers for POLB are at www.polb.com/stats.

    Berkenkamp will begin his new assignment on Jan. 21 as the commander of the West Patrol Division.

    The current West Patrol Division Commander Robert Smith will assume command of the Gang and Violent Crimes Division to replace commander Robert Luman, who recently retired.

    Hall Appointed to Agricultural Labor Board

    SACRAMENTO — On Jan. 13, Gov. Jerry Brown appointed former state Sen. Isadore Hall to the California Agricultural Labor Relations Board.

    The appointment requires Senate confirmation. He will earn an annual salary of $142,095.

    Hall, 45, was appointed the same day that board Chairman William B. Gould IV announced his resignation, accusing the state bureaucracy of stalling a proposal to allow the board to demand access to farms to educate workers about their rights.

    Hall served in the state Senate from 2014 to 2016, the Assembly from 2008 to 2014 and was a member of the Compton City Council from 2003 to 2008.

    Hall was defeated in the Nov. 8 election by former Hermosa Beach City Councilwoman Nanette Barragán, a fellow Democrat, in the race to replace Rep. Janice Hahn.

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  • San Pedro Mourns Photojournalist

    • 01/20/2017
    • Terelle Jerricks
    • Obituaries
    • Comments are off

    Michael Justice (Oct. 22, 1955 – Jan. 4, 2017)

    Photojournalist Michael Justice. Photo by Casey Warren

    By Terelle Jerricks, Managing Editor

    Michael Justice was the quintessential photographer stricken with wanderlust. During his long career, Justice followed his camera to assignments in 62 countries. By the time he landed in San Pedro, a little bit of that wanderlust had worn away.

    Random Lengths News began collaborating with Justice in 2008, when he shot photos for its publication HarborLiving.

    As the managing editor, I worked closely with him. He was a great photographer with an interesting back-story.

    On Jan. 4, Justice died in a helicopter accident. He and the helicopter’s pilot, 41-year-old Christopher Reed, were pulled out of the two-seater copter that crashed near the San Pedro breakwater the next day.

    Justice was doing some aerial photography for the Port of Los Angeles for whom he had worked since 2010.

    Publisher James Preston Allen fondly remembers several of his conversations with Justice.

    “Michael was one of the best photojournalists who I’ve had the opportunity to work with over the 36 years [of this paper],” Allen said. “I considered him as something more than a colleague. He was my friend and I’ll miss him…. The irony of Justice’s death is that after traveling the world in places more dangerous than this, he died less than a mile from his home on a routine assignment.”

    “It’s a sad day for the Port of LA and the photojournalism community,” POLA spokesman Phillip Sanfield said. “We are feeling his loss deeply.”

    Justice, 61, was born and reared in Torrance. He’s been a freelance photographer for almost 30 years. He discovered his love for photography at Torrance High School, where he took a class in the subject. At the time photography equipment was very expensive, but Justice stuck with it. He perfected his craft at the Pasadena Art Center College of Design in Photography, California State University Long Beach and Brooks Institute of Photography. It took time for him to be able to invest in his craft, but it paid off his sister Lori Mahler recalled.

    “He’d travelled the world,” Mahler said. “We were very close.”

    His work has appeared in Random Lengths News, Daily Breeze, The Wall Street Journal, National Geographic Adventurer, AAA World Magazine, Life Magazine, Newsweek and Time Magazine.

    His clients included California United Terminal, Los Angeles World Airports, The Port of Los Angeles, China Shipping, Maersk Inc., BNSF, Waste Management, the San Pedro Chamber of Commerce, the Beverly Hills Chamber of Commerce, Baxter BioScience, Microsoft, the Los Angeles Police Department, American Express, McDonald’s Corporation, GTE, Aetna-US Healthcare, Wescom Credit Union and Gemological Institute of America.

    Casey Warren knew Justice his entire life. In fact, Warren’s father was Justice’s classmate in high school. Justice became Casey’s godfather. When Warren moved to San Pedro seven years ago, Justice took him under his wing. For four years, Warren helped Justice with lighting, and later, Justice taught Warren the art of photography.

    “He was always at his happiest when he was shooting photos,” Warren said. “I’ll always remember him for his love and passion for photography and his dedication to his family and friends…. Michael was one of the funniest, energetic and caring people.”

    Justice is survived by his two sisters, Leann Atwater and Lori Mahler, and several nieces and nephews. A celebration of life reception took place at Ports O’ Call Restaurant in San Pedro on Jan. 13.

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  • The Long Arc of History

    • 01/20/2017
    • James Preston Allen
    • At Length
    • Comments are off

    Some secrets are only revealed too late and lost in the Twittersphere

    By James Preston Allen, Publisher

    Amidst the uproar over the president-elect’s latest tweet, his latest cabinet picks, and the latest revelations on the impact of Russian hacking on his surprise election win, the airing of Michael Kirk’s documentary film, Divided States of America, on Frontline (PBS) was overlooked.

    The documentary, which aired on Jan. 18, examines President Barack Obama’s two terms in office and the widening divide over politics, race, and economics. The documentary noted that when Obama was elected eight years ago, Democrats became a majority in both houses of Congress. Pundits prognosticated that the Republican party would be out of power for at least a generation.

    The documentary, however, reveals  how instead of accepting the dead-on arrival prognosis, Republican party members gathered at their favorite watering hole and mapped out a plan to stop Obama. The plan from the very beginning was to keep any of his objectives from ever being implemented or passed. That’s exactly what they’ve done for the last eight years.

    Their strategy explains a great deal about why so little has been accomplished by this Republican-led Congress, which was won back, starting the with the House of Representatives in 2010 and the Senate by 2012. This is also why Obama began to increasingly turn to executive orders to get his agenda accomplished.

    The stalemate was planned by none other than Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the House and a co-author and architect of the  Contract With America.

    It also reveals how politically naïve Obama was to the ways of D.C.  politics as he tried repeatedly to cross the divide between liberals and conservatives to weld bi-partisan support for the economic recovery and the Affordable Care Act, subsequently dubbed ObamaCare.

    This was probably Obama’s greatest failing as president. Under his tenure, the nation has only grown more divided. In the end, that divide created both the Tea Party revolt and the election of someone who is the exact opposite of Barack Obama. Our country hasn’t been this divided since the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War era.

    As the nation celebrates civil rights icon, Martin Luther King Jr. with street parades and closed government buildings, I’m reminded of how my generation reacted to assassinations of national leaders like King, President John F. Kennedy, or his brother Sen. Robert Kennedy and never found satisfaction in the official explanations given. This was so after the FBI Counter Intelligence Program was exposed following the 1971 burgling of FBI field office of classified dossiers which were distributed to the media. News of President Richard Nixon’s Watergate scandal spread. He and his merry band of political plumbers were caught red handed.

    President Obama likes to quote Dr. King regarding the nature of justice, saying:

    ‘The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice,’ many of my generation are still not willing to wait, nonetheless endure a repeat of the injustices of the past.  This is among the many reasons why I, and millions of other Americans, am not going to ‘just give the new guy a chance to prove himself.’ 

    Trump has already lost his opportunity to unite this nation behind his alt-version of reality.

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  • American Women Give their First Road Report

    By Melina Paris, Contributing Writer

    Alyssandra Nighswonger and Nicolassa Galvez are the Road to the American Woman. Their destination was the Women’s March on Washington D.C. on Jan. 21. As they drive across the country the women are capturing the untold stories of women across the nation. Their journey began Jan. 8, from Long Beach. They are traveling to more than a dozen cities on their round-trip.

    Galvez and Nighswonger were finally getting into their rhythm when they set off on the next leg of their road trip to the Women’s March on Washington, D.C. from Austin,Texas. They were beset with a few challenges ranging from equipment issues to securing interviews.

    On Jan. 20, Random Lengths News published, On the Road to the American Woman, a profile of Galvez and Nighswonger that explains why they are journeying to the nation’s capitol. Click here to read it.

    Since taking off on Jan. 9, the pair has faced long days of driving. Then they arrive at a city on their route and have to go right into performing — Nighswonger takes to the stage and plays her music.  Other times, they attend women’s gatherings to listen to their stories. The next day, they repeat the routine. They say they have been well received and are getting good interviews.

    “People are really excited for us to be there,” Nighswonger said. “They have been so respectful of trying to find a space, letting us stay there, publish our event. We’ve had a lot of support.”

    In Austin, Texas, Galvez and Nighswonger met with a nonprofit organization called Boss Babes ATX. It is a collective that does not discriminate based on careers, serving self-identified women in creative industries.

    “They help each other accomplish things,” Nighswonger said. “They’ve provided a strong network for each other. We interviewed between a dozen to 20 women and we actually had at least four or five engineers, which I thought was wonderful. They are proud to be in a male dominated field.”

    The common thread linking their female interview subjects has been health care. The women interviewed were concerned about accessibility to birth control, if the prices will rise or if it will be covered by their health insurance.

    Galvez’s concern is that they have been talking to moderately successful middle-class women.

    She wonders if other classes are maybe more fearful.

    “I don’t think some of the women (we’ve spoken to) realize how much of a disadvantage other women have, or maybe women of color have,” Galvez said. “Generally if they’re fairly successful there are definitely challenges they face, but as far as their status as women, I heard that a lot of women generally think we’re doing OK.”

    The women also talked about pay raises and opportunity. They said that even though they’re in a male dominated field, engineers in this case, as long as you work hard and ask for what you want you can be successful.

    “I personally think that their view might be a little skewed,” Galvez said. “Whether it comes from talking to more women along the trip or we bring in a professor that studies the status of women over all will be important just so that we’re not perpetuating any myths. I’m just realizing this now as I’ve been talking to women. Generally, educated intelligent women still think that as long as you try hard that you will be fine.”

    Galvez said she brought various books along because she felt like she needed to keep intersectional feminism in her mind on the trip.

    “Even when the person not driving is working, we thought we would have time to get work
    done but we’ve just been packing it in getting the locations settled, lodging settled doing what
    we can on social media,” Galvez said.
    Most everywhere they have visited, they said they have met women who are either going to the march on Washington D.C. or participating in other marches. Nighswonger added that there are many supplemental marches in all the surrounding cities near Washington D.C.

    They have been to Selma, Ala, Nashville, Tenn. and North Carolina then onto D.C. for the march.  They continued to interview women along the route back home.
    You can find Road to the American Woman scheduled stops updates on their Facebook page. See their itinerary on their website.

    Read about how it all started here.  Check out what happened next.

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  • The Road to the American Woman

    • 01/19/2017
    • Melina Paris
    • Feature
    • Comments are off


    By Melina Paris, Contributing Writer

    Hiillary Clinton was believed to be a shoo-in for the Oval Office, especially given the Republican nominee’s confession of habitually sexually assaulting women and getting away with it because of his celebrity.

    However, the election did not go as expected. Donald Trump became president-elect of the United States, leaving millions of women — gay, straight, and bisexual; cis and transgender; white women and women of color — to reexamine what it means to be an American woman. Ahead of the inauguration, the threat to women’s progress is clear.

    Long Beach community arts advocate Nicolassa Galvez and songwriter Alyssandra Nighswonger are two of the many women pondering how they will be impacted in this ominous environment. On Jan. 21, they will be taking a three week road trip across the United States to participate and bear witness to the Women’s March on Washington, D.C. They are calling this road trip, the Road to the American Woman.

    The idea for the Women’s March on Washington was formed Nov. 9, the day after the election. Teresa Shook, a grandmother residing in Hawaii, organized 40 of her friends to march on Washington, D.C. Like dominoes, her friends invited their friends and the idea hit the Facebook group Pantsuit Nation. Administrators on Facebook pages generated thousands of sign-ups by the hour and eventually consolidated into one united effort.

    A friend suggested to Nighswonger that she go to the march on Washington. As a singer and songwriter who looks for ways to connect with audiences, the idea got the wheels in her mind turning.

    “Since the election people have been speaking out and there is a conversation of inclusiveness,” Nighswonger said. “What if we take a road to go there, play music and interview women along the way about their stories and what it means to be a woman and ask them questions?”

    One of Nighswonger’s first order of business was inviting Galvez to come along on this trip. Galvez  is a community arts advocate, but her strength lies in her researching, writing and online publishing skills. And,  Galvez, like millions of others, was stunned by the election and eager to do something about it.

    “I got together with some women friends to watch the results,” Galvez said. “The week before voting day is always when the big guns come out, the big story and we all know Trump made many comments about women … that was when the comment came out about the sexual assault.

    “It came out and no one cared. They were all still talking about the [Clinton] emails. So, on election night, we could see he was gaining. I still didn’t think he could win. Then it hit me, all those people still voted for him and didn’t care about what he said. They don’t care about how he feels about the Mexican community or the Muslim community. It hit me hard and I wondered, ‘What I do now?”’

    Nighswonger envisioned going on a road trip during which she would collect stories from various women at the stops along the road to Washington D.C. Her model is loosely based off of blogs like Humans of New York and podcasts like This American Life.

    Nighswonger want to engage in “story-catching,” a throwback to the term  songcatchers which is a reference  to the pioneering work of Olive Dame Campbell and Cecil Sharp to preserve the traditional Scots- Irish ballads of Appalachia.

    She reflected on the idea and scope of that project and the influence that music has on today’s stories.

    “Someone was going out into the mountains ready to meet some people and hear some songs,” Nighswonger said. “It made me think of our purpose, setting out on this journey, ready to meet some people and hear their stories.”

    The modern American woman is made up of many voices. American feminism has taken a beating during this recent election cycle for ignoring intersectional discrimination. It has been criticized for its propensity for telling women of color where their interests lie.

    Bringing diverse voices and stories into this discussion is foremost on the minds of Galvez and Nighswonger. This mission of inclusiveness also mirrors that of the organizers for the upcoming march in Washington D.C.

    The original organizers of the D.C. march were white. It’s an ironic twist since Clinton’s weakness with white women in key states cost her the election. Trump won their support 53-43 nationwide. It’s imperative that diverse voices actively participate in this social discussion. This is what Road to the American Woman seeks to do.

    To address this issue Vanessa Wruble, who worked alongside a page administrator for the march, made efforts to include women of different backgrounds. The point was to make sure their voices were reflected in meetings and the decision-making process.

    Tamika D. Mallory, Carmen Perez and Linda Sarsour came on to work with the team as national co-chairwomen.

    These three women organized a 250-mile march from New York to Washington D.C. to demand changes in America’s criminal justice system. The site acknowledges these activists as, “not tokens, but dynamic and powerful leaders who have been organizing intersectional mobilizations for their entire careers.”

    Shortly after their first fundraiser for their road trip, Galvez and Nighswonger spoke about what it means to each of them to be an American Woman now.

    “For me personally I define it as a very traditional role,” Galvez said. “Growing up, it was like, ‘follow the rules, listen to authority.’ As far as my academics or politics, I’m super liberal but my personal life was very reserved.”

    For Galvez, the last couple of years have shown a breakthrough in redefining what the American woman is and it’s been difficult. Before, there was a formula for how her personal life should look. Then, there was what she calls, “this explosion.” It blew out any formulas for her, both personally and on matters of gender and sexuality.

    “I feel everybody is a little bit everywhere,” Galvez said. “It used to be gay or straight. Now there’s so many definitions. For me in defining an American woman, this trip is about expanding my understanding of all the possibilities out there, so that I can start finding that definition for myself. I’m not even in that place right now. I’m still in the place of post- explosion.”

    As early as this past year, those labels didn’t have an effect on her. The first time she considered being single, having a non-traditional relationship and leaving her job was after a recent break up. Her degree in social justice opened up a world to her that she didn’t know. She came to realize that there still are many labels and invisible prejudices in society.

    Some of labels that stand out to Galvez and Nighswonger are both positive and negative.

    “I identify with mestiza, (mixed with European and indigenous) and chingona, or bad ass,” Galvez said. “Some people see it as a bad word, but to me, it’s a bad word because women aren’t allowed to be badass. Another positive term that is new to me is ‘queen,’ as a term of endearment. Negative ones are, ‘overweight,’ ‘lady’ or “proper.”’

    “For negative ones, ‘honey,’ ‘sweetie, or ‘Miss,’” Nighswonger interjected. “It’s very condescending. For positive ones, ‘power woman’ and ‘boss.’”

    Nighswonger comes from a blended family. Both her parents were on their second marriage when she was born. She had half-siblings from each parent. There was some turmoil making ends meet and keeping everyone happy. Also, her mother had leukemia. She had a bone marrow transplant and has been in a 20-year remission, but it was difficult growing up.

    “I was taking care of her for a long time,” Nighswonger said. “It was hard to find that role model of what it means to be a strong woman. It was hard to define that when I was younger and was always hunting.”

    That changed when she got to college and read a poetry book titled, Naked by Alma Luz Villanueva, a Latina writer from San Francisco.

    “She had a vibrancy and this ferociousness and this love and this warmth that I’d never encountered quite like that before,” Nighswonger said. “I identified with her heavily. Maybe being a real woman is more raw than I thought and stronger than I thought.”

    Nighswonger’s mother turned out to be a strong role model to her all along. While sick, she studied and became a registered nurse. When she became strong enough in her wheelchair, she got a job at a call center at Kaiser Permanente, then became a Lamaze instructor and later a lactation consultant. Now, she is a head lactation consultant in California. She’s even served on the board of La Leche League, a nonprofit dedicated to providing education and support to women who believe breastfeeding as an important element in the healthy development of the baby and mother.

    “Being an American woman is being proud of your fortitude,” Nighswonger said. “We live in a diverse country, everyone has different hardships. The feminine role has this sometimes subtle strength and sometimes ferocious strength. It’s powerful. We live in a beautiful country. Even though there is this tension now there is so much diversity at our fingertips. Being an American woman you can hone in on that diversity and strength. It’s something to be proud of.”

    The documentary tour schedule is available at http://tinyurl.com/RoadtotheAmericanWoman

    Click here to follow their journey.

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  • Health Care Emergency:

    Trump, GOP Threaten Obamacare, Medicare and Medicaid

    By Paul Rosenberg, Senior Editor

    “I am going to take care of everybody,” [getting health care],” Donald Trump told 60 Minutes correspondent Scott Pelley in September, 2016. “Everybody’s got to be covered. This is an un-Republican thing for me to say!”

    Saying that—and other un-Republican things—is a very large part of why Trump was elected. But he lied. And Pelley, like so many others, let him lie.

    Trump’s actual health care plan, “Healthcare Reform to Make America Great Again,” wouldn’t cover everybody. An analysis four months earlier by the non-partisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget found that Trump’s plan “would cause almost 21 million people to lose their insurance coverage, as the replacement health care policies would only cover 5 percent of the 22 million individuals who would lose coverage upon the repeal of the Obamacare. This would almost double the number of Americans without health insurance.”

    Others pointed out that repealing the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, would also eliminate recent improvements to Medicare and make its trust fund less solvent. Additionally, Trump’s proposal to grant states fixed block grants rather than federally funding each Medicare recipient would significantly weaken the program, paving the way for future cuts. This means Trump’s plan is a lie with regard to his repeated campaign promise to protect Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

    Trump knew what he was doing, even if Pelley did not. As far back as 2013, Trump told a gathering of conservative activists, “As Republicans, if you think you are going to change very substantially for the worse Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security in any substantial way, and at the same time you think you are going to win elections, it just really is not going to happen.”

    With the election over, all bets are off.  Within days of Trump’s win, House Speaker Paul Ryan went on Fox News to renew his long-time push to privatize Medicare, accurately revealing that GOP attacks on Medicare, Medicaid and Obamacare are all interrelated, while falsely claiming that “because of Obamacare, Medicare is going broke.” (Actually, Obamacare extended Medicare’s financial stability.)


    Republican Rep. Tom Price is Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the Department of Health and Human Services. Price advocates privatizing Medicare. File photo

    Trump followed up by nominating Ryan’s close ally, Rep. Tom Price, to head the Department of Health and Human Services. And the fight was on.

    “Tom Price at HHS is someone who has advocated for privatizing Medicare in the past; there’s just no way that’s a good situation,” Brad Wright, a spokesman for the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, told Random Lengths.

    Price has also advocated slashing Medicaid and replacing Obamacare with a much weaker system that would dramatically increase the number of uninsured, leading groups like National Nurses United to lobby the Senate not to confirm him.

    “If confirmed, it is clear that Rep. Price will pursue policies that substantially erode our nation’s health and security — eliminating health coverage, reducing access, shifting more costs to working people and their families and throwing our most sick and vulnerable fellow Americans at the mercy of the health care industry,” National Nurses United warned in a letter to Senators.

    “The signal that is sent when you appoint someone like Tom Price doesn’t jibe with what the president-elect campaigned on, which is that he’s not going to cut Social Security or Medicare,” Wright chimed in.

    The disconnect was vividly illustrated when National Public Radio, the Washington Post and others looked at hard-hit Kentucky voters after the election. The sub-head of Vox’s story summed it all up: “In Whitley County, Kentucky, the uninsured rate declined 60 percent under Obamacare. So why did 82 percent of voters there support Donald Trump?”

    Sarah Kliff’s report included this:

    “I guess I thought that, you know, he would not do this, he would not take health insurance away knowing it would affect so many people’s lives,” said Debbie Mills, an Obamacare enrollee who supported Trump. “I mean, what are you to do then if you cannot pay for insurance?”

    A good question that should have been asked sooner.

    Congressional Republicans are contemplating two budget reconciliation bills— the first in January to repeal Obamacare, another later in the year to slash Medicaid and begin privatizing Medicare, along with tax cuts concentrated on the rich.

    Reconciliation bills aren’t subject to a filibuster, so they don’t require any Democratic votes. But they do require Republicans willing to risk voters’ wrath if they proceed, which is why folks are already furiously organizing. On Dec. 7, a coalition of groups delivered one million signatures demanding that Congress “keep its hands off of Medicare.”  On Dec. 20, MoveOn partnered with 45 local and national groups against repealing Obamacare to demonstrate outside 82 Republican House and Senate offices in 26 states, along with thousands of supporting phone calls.

    With Obamacare repeal first on the GOP agenda, it’s important to understand how much else it would undermine.

    “Right on the immediate horizon, the repeal of Obamacare has very significant implications for Medicare,” Wright said. “Most people who are Medicare beneficiaries don’t realize how the Medicare improvements of the past several years have been part of what is referred to as ‘Obamacare,’ the Affordable Care Act.  It’s not something they’re consciously aware of, and so that’s one of the messages that we’ve been trying to get out, is understand what’s at stake for Medicare if the Affordable Care Act is repealed.”

    Perhaps most dramatic is “an enormous help in closing the donut hole.” [The gap in Medicare drug discounts.]

    With Obamacare, “The discounts that Medicare beneficiaries get in their prescription drug discounts is very significant.  Nationwide, it’s probably $1000 per enrollee,” Wright said. “There are health screenings, screenings for chronic diseases that people who are 65 and over often suffer…. There are colonoscopies, there are mammograms, there are tests for diabetes. These are things that seniors get now, because of the Affordable Care Act, with no out-of-pocket cost. So you remove that co-pay barrier and more people will get the screenings…. When they get the screenings, if there is a problem, they’ve caught it early enough, in a lot of cases, to keep people healthier and therefore, less expensive to treat.”

    There’s also been a dramatic reduction in hospital readmissions, driven by changes in reimbursement, which now encourage significantly better continuity of care.

    “They’re down in every state in the union that we know of,” Wright said. “Down anywhere from 5 to 11 percent since the Affordable Care Act came into being…. We just are very concerned that people don’t understand that these benefits are at risk…. Information is power. If you understand what’s happening to Medicare with the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, then take action and get involved, get on the phone, because this is a real threat.”

    In California, the impact of Obamacare repeal threatens to be particularly dire, according to a report from the Center for Labor Research and Education at the University of California Berkeley. Repeal could take away health insurance from millions of Californians, while also eliminating 209,000 jobs and costing the state economy $20.3 billion in gross domestic product, it said.

    “Through the Affordable Care Act, we have 5 million people who are insured now who weren’t insured before; more than four million of those are through Medi-Cal, our Medicaid program,” said Chris Hoene, executive director of the California Budget and Policy Center, at a Dec. 13, 2016 presentation in Sacramento.

    “Nationally, 11 million more people in the county are covered now by Medicaid than prior,  more than 4 million of those are Californians,” Hoene noted. “California more than anyplace else has a grand stake in what happens with this.”

    At the same event, Edwin Park, vice president for Health Policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, explained the severity of what Republicans were planning.

    “The Affordable Care Act repeal does not include a replacement plan, despite what congressional Republican leaders have promised, so it’s effectively [a] repeal,” Park said. “There’s no indication that there is a replacement plan. Congressional Republican leaders have had six years to put together such a plan, but there is no consensus plan, particularly among Senate Republicans…. The House budget plan from Republicans this [past] year talked about cutting federal Medicaid funding by another trillion dollars over 10 years, on top of repeal of the Medicaid expansion as part of an ACA repeal proposal.”

    More than 5 million Californians could lose coverage.

    “The cuts are so large that states have no choice but to dramatically scale back their programs, going well beyond losing the expansion,” Park said.

    A Dec. 6, 2016 report from the Urban Institute added more detail to what such a bill might entail. These included:

    • The number of those uninsured would rise from 28.9 million to 58.7 million in 2019, an increase of 29.8 million people (103 percent).
    • The share of uninsured non-elderly people would increase from 11 to 21 percent, a higher rate of uninsurance than before the ACA.
    • Eighty-two percent of those becoming uninsured would be in working families.
    • Eighty percent of the adults becoming uninsured would not have college degrees.
    • Federal government spending on health care for the non-elderly would be reduced by $109 billion in 2019 and by $1.3 trillion from 2019 to 2028.
    • State spending on Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program would fall by $76 billion between 2019 and 2028.
    • The newly uninsured will be seeking an additional $1.1 trillion in uncompensated care between 2019 and 2028.
    • Many, if not most, insurers are unlikely to participate in market places in 2018 if the individual mandate is not enforced starting in 2017, meaning millions more would lose their insurance.

    “This scenario does not just move the country back to the situation before the ACA. It moves the country to a situation with higher uninsurance rates than was the case before the ACA’s reforms,” the report stated, echoing Park’s assessment.

    The bottom line comes back to what Wright said: “Information is power; if you understand what’s happening… then take action and get involved, get on the phone, because this is a real threat.”

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  • Dear President:

    Artists Send a Message

    By Andrea Serna, Arts and Culture Writer

    As the inauguration of Donald Trump as president of the United States completes its transition in our minds from inconceivable to imminent, The Loft Gallery in San Pedro has gathered the work of almost 50 artists for Dear President, a special exhibit.

    The idea for this exhibition, which opens Jan. 14, originated almost a year ago at the beginning of the 2016 election process. Hillary Clinton, Donald J. Trump and Bernie Sanders, three very different personalities, campaigned for the presidency with conflicting views. The results of the election were months away, but all polls favored Clinton. However, Election Night brought the stunning news of Trump’s victory.

    Two months later, the results are difficult to comprehend and the implications for the art community are unknown. Artists have expressed dread of unfettered right-wing censorship.

    “Artists have an unexpected way of contributing to the conversation through their unique visual interpretations,” Peggy Zask said. “They bring a sensitivity and perspective to the issues through emotional expression, abstraction, visualization and parody.”

    Known for their large group shows, the Zask’s bring together artists working in various mediums for this exhibit. The title of the show refers to letters each artist wrote to the incoming president, which they correlated to their artworks.

    “Years ago, during the culture wars of the ‘80s and ‘90s, the National Endowment for the Arts drastically cut funding,” wrote artist Mary Milelzcik in her letter. “On the night of the 2016 election, I got the sinking feeling that life just got so much worse.”

    Her powerful piece to be featured was created in response to the 1990 battle, spurned on by a conservative Congress and Sen. Jesse Helms. The battle with regard to funding traveled all the way to the Supreme Court. Milelzcik photographed an American flag with the stars tumbling off the fabric. In front of the flag, a small dark-skinned child covers her face in sorrow.

    The topics in the exhibit cover subjects such as climate change, income equality, gun control and money in politics. All subjects passionately debated on the campaign trail by Clinton and Sanders, while Trump mostly focused on building a wall and fear mongering. With the Republican takeover of the White House, both houses of Congress, and possibly the Supreme Court, censorship and freedom of expression are now added into the equation of the exhibitio

    Artists, who are accustomed to living outside the usual margins of society, are often wary of another attack on creative freedom. The initial reaction was a numbing shock, but in the weeks since the election many have begun to mobilize.

    For artist John Dingler, politics infuse much of his work. “I take life seriously” he declares in his artist statement.

    Dingler’s work often combines photos, video, drawings and news headlines. He is regarded as a revolutionary thinker; he blends fantasy with photographic reality to achieve an engaging synthesis. His colorful works have been exhibited across the United States and Europe.

    His letter and his art  address whistleblowers such as Chelsea Manning, the U.S. Army soldier who was convicted by a court-martial in July 2013 of violating the Espionage Act. Manning disclosed to WikiLeaks nearly three-quarters of a million classified and unclassified, yet sensitive, military and diplomatic documents.


    John Dingler’s “Whistleblower John Kiriakou” is part of the “Dear President” exhibit at The Loft Gallery in San Pedro. Photo courtesy of The Loft Gallery.

    Dingler’s contribution to the show depicts John Kiriakou, a former CIA agent sentenced to almost two years in prison for providing ABC News with the name of a Pentagon torturer. He was sentenced under the Espionage Act. He was the first U.S. government official to confirm, in December 2007, that waterboarding was used to interrogate Al Qaeda prisoners. Dingler believes that providing information to a news organization should be covered in the U.S. Constitution under the First Amendment. Today Kiriakou is an associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies. He also is a blogger for The Huffington Post.

    As originally conceived, the exhibition was not meant to address a particular candidate, but rather issues that concerned the general population. After Nov. 8, the submission date was extended to provide additional artists with an opportunity to participate in the show. The letters were to be delivered to the newly-elected president, regardless of who it would be.

    “I had a pretty good show ready for exhibition, but we decided to extend the submission date by two weeks when the results came in,” Peggy Zask said. “We received 60 percent of the artworks in those two weeks. The context of the show has changed to multi-levels of meaning now. We have artists coming from all over California and out of state for this exhibit. The sense is that this is an important issue.”

    In the letters they received, some of the artists did not want their names used because they are afraid of retribution.

    One artist who chose to sign his name “Los Angeles” wrote a letter to the next president about anti-Muslim rhetoric.

    “How sad the circumstances that have precipitated the writing of this letter,” Los Angeles wrote. “I am going to remind you of a word you seem to have omitted from your political vocabulary: tolerance. At the end of the day, our country’s cultural legacy will be judged on the quality of its mercy, tolerance and established safe haven for the pursuit of individual freedom and religious beliefs.”

    Dear President

    Edem Elesh’s “Sanctuary” is part of the “Dear President” exhibit at The Loft Gallery in San Pedro. Photo courtesy of The Loft Gallery.

    The artist’s composition is created, somewhat ironically, with an oil and tar patina on aluminum. In his piece, he shows a im woman with her eyes blocked out by a black censorship strip — as in a crime photo. The work reflects a metaphor for the criminalization of Islam, the Muslim religion.

    Dear President shows in conjunction with another exhibition, Faces. Curator Karrie Ross asked artists to create one-half of a face, either right or left, that will be paired with a face from another artist. The concept is to express your emotional, physical or mental response to this highly charged election.

    Artist and curator Ben Zask created an assemblage with found objects from his studio. The frame of an oval mirror was divided in half, while Zask brings in various materials to represent facial features. The work, finished with a tiny pearl teardrop falling from the eye, is a tender reflection of the despondency many feel as we peer into an uncertain future.

    The exhibition opens with an artist’s reception, from 4 to7 p.m. Jan. 14. It also will be featured during the First Thursday Art Walk, from 6 to 9 p.m. Feb. 2. An artist’s talk is scheduled from 3 to 5 p.m. Feb.19.

    Details: www.southbaycontemporary.org
    Venue: South Bay Contemporary at The Loft Gallery, 401 S. Mesa St., 3rd Floor, San Pedro

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  • Tony's Barbecue: Carson's Unexpected Bibingkinitan Discovery

    As a culinary adventurer, I am drawn to the unknown. When I see a restaurant advertising a specialty I’ve never tasted —or  heard of —  that is where I go. This may demand making an abrupt U-turn or cancelling an appointment to avoid the chance I might not be able find my way back to the eatery another time.

    I nearly passed by one of those establishments during a recent drive through Carson with my brother.

    “Carpe Diem!” flashed into my mind when I happened to catch a glimpse of the large sign mounted outside Tony’s Barbecue. Fortunately, I was able to make the hard turn into the parking lot, and although the move subjected my brother to severe G-forces. The sign was pretty tremendous, too.

    It read:  “Bibingkinitan! Freshly baked mini-bibingka of Carson.” Immediately, one of the questions that arose was answered: a bibingkinitan is a small bibingka. But that answer just as quickly raised several more, including this one: what’s a bibingka?

    A quick search of the internet revealed it’s a Filipino rice cake, and yes, the bibingkinitan is its little brother. That sounded interesting, so my brother and bibingkinitanI walked into the neat little fast food restaurant knowing at least one thing we would order. The rest of the decision process was just as easy, since there are pictures of everything on the short menu posted behind the counter. The restaurant’s theme is grilled meat and seafood, in either a Filipino barbecue or teriyaki sauce. We ordered grilled pork, chicken inasal, a chicken skewer on the side and a bibingkinitan.  coconut-bibingka01

    Since I’ve eaten Filipino food before, I had some idea of what to expect. Although there are regional variations across the country, the national palate favors dishes sweetened with coconut milk, sugar, or honey, which are balanced with vinegar or citrus. Savory items are mildly spiced and show more Spanish influence than other Southeast Asian cuisines, with garlic and chili used judiciously. Desserts tend to be extremely sweet. I’m particularly partial to the soups that use tamarind to add a little fruity sourness to the broth, so I was delighted to see that a cup of soup is included with everything.

    The soup was a variant on Chinese egg drop; the chicken-based stock was silky, rich and a little sweet. I adulterated mine with a little of the vinegar that arrived with the barbecue, but it was OK even without that. Only after we ordered did I notice that they offer the vinegar and green papaya salad called atchara, and now that I know, next time I’ll order it as a starter. It would be enjoyable to alternate that slight tartness and crunch with the soup.

    The barbecue pork and the chicken skewer were freshly made and had been brushed with a sweet and sour barbecue sauce while on the grill, which slightly caramelized it. In comparison to American regional styles, it’s closest to Chicago barbecue, but without the tomato in the sauce. Both sauces work well because meat tastes great with caramelized sugar and vinegar.

    We saved the bibingkinitan for last, partly because we weren’t sure whether it was intended to be sweet or savory. It looked like a muffin served in an elaborately folded banana leaf instead of the usual paper holder and smelled delicately of freshly toasted coconut. We found that cooking the bibingkinitan in the banana leaf had infused the delicate, spongy cake with an appealing tropical flavor. The filling of cream cheese did not enhance the cake’s flavor much, nevertheless it added a mild lactic sweetness. My California palate makes me want to try making one of these with goat cheese or something else a little more assertive, however I’d try it again.

    Bibingkas of any size are a traditional Christmas item in Filipino households, though Tony’s serves them all year. If you want to explore another culture’s celebratory cuisine you might get a recipe and try making them. But If teaching yourself to fold banana leaf cups sounds like too much work for you, just make your way over to Tony’s in Carson instead.

    Tony’s Barbecue and Bibingkinitan is at 860 E. Carson St., #105, Carson. It is open daily, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

    Details: (310) 518-7860.

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