• 20 Eyes Looks to the Future

    Photo and article by Mike Botica, Editorial Intern

    The Dec. 21 renaming of the intersection of Pacific Avenue and 13th Street after American Ballet Theatre principal dancer Misty Copeland was a homecoming celebration, that coincided with a gift-wrapped opportunity for San Pedro band, 20 Eyes.

    The band’s performance of their song Wait for Me was aired on live television and written up in the Los Angeles Times.

    “I’ve played it once or twice acoustically at small shows and stuff,” said Wolf Bradley, 20 Eyes’ lead vocalist and guitarist. “So to play it and then have that many people there watching [and] to get written up about it in the LA Times was really exciting, because that’s as big of a debut as we could’ve hoped for.”

    To have the debut coincide with Copeland’s return to San Pedro made it extra special. Bradley, keyboardist Chance Famighetti and drummer Andrew Macatrao were children 20 years ago, when Bradley’s mom Sandra took the teenaged Copeland under her wing and guided her into the world of ballet.

    Bradley said Copeland has become like a sister to him, no matter the demands of their careers.

    “She’s never seen me perform as a band,” Bradley said. “We did like a little secret impromptu acoustic show for her. It was super cool,” he said.

    20 Eyes isn’t Bradley’s first run at celebrity. Random Lengths wrote about him and his four-piece band, Last Day Off, in 2009. Only Bradley and Macatrao remain from that band. With a few weeks to reflect on the late-December whirlwind of attention, it seemed time for an update.

    Mike Botica:  Are there any unexpected influences that you guys took from growing up in the ballet scene?

    Wolf Bradley: For me, it’s been performing.  I’ve been performing since I was three.  Andrew and I met 10 years ago. He was performing in ballet even before we started the band.  Also, listening to such classical and classic great music like The Nutcracker, Swan Lake, or things like that. It’s like the pop music of that era — super catchy, but very full of art and creativity.

    Andrew Macatrao: They both have a lot to do with staying in time, they just go hand in hand.

    WB: I feel like I forget how weird it is that we do ballet to some people.  Well, not “weird” in a bad way, but just like “interesting,” because I’ve grown up with ballet and we’ve all taken ballet for a while … the most that it’s helped us performance-wise is being so comfortable performing on stage, because that’s where we like to be.

    But Misty and Wolf aren’t the only artists from their household.  Wolf’s mother, Cindy, was in a punk band called The Whigs, and played shows from San Diego to Los Angeles before the band eventually found their way onto KROQ.  Now the former punk rocker runs the San Pedro Ballet School, but Wolf is well aware of her past life.  

    MB: Wolf, your mother was in a rock band in the ‘80s.  Tell me more about that.

    WB: She was in a band called The Whigs, and lived in San Diego for a while, but then all their shows kept getting shut down by the cops, so they moved to San Pedro. And then they started playing around LA a lot, and they got really big in LA for a little bit.  This guy named Rodney Bingenheimer, who used to be huge on KROQ, he had a show called Rodney on the Roq, and he was the first person to play her on the radio.  And he really took a liking to my mom and they were playing (her music) all the time.  My mom’s favorite band is Blondie, and he knew Blondie (Deborah Harry), and they talked on the phone.  I have a lot of their music, and it’s so weird to think about her as a singer and as a “punk” person, because she’s so conscientious and careful now being a mom, because I’m sure she was different back then.  Going crazy… (he laughed).

    Cindy introduced Wolf to ballet at a young age, and it was through the ballet school in San Pedro that Wolf met up with Chance and Andrew, later forming their first band together.  Andrew and Wolf first started Last Day Off as a way to play the kind of music that they loved as children, but soon their hobby grew into something more. 

    MB: When did Last Day Off end and 20 Eyes start?

    WB: Andrew and I started the band [Last Day Off].

    AM: … in 2007 (continued) and 20 Eyes began in 2011.

    WB: We were originally called, The Ballerhinos.  I was 14, and we kinda just wanted to do Blink-182 songs and just write fun pop-punk songs.  Then we got a little more serious about it and changed our name to Last Day Off, switched out some members, and we were still just playing pop-punk stuff.  I feel like if we hadn’t done Last Day Off, 20 Eyes wouldn’t be as — what we think is good —  as it is now.  It really prepared us to be on stage all the time musically. But 20 Eyes started because it was time for a change. We didn’t want to play music that we were writing when we were 15 or 16, and we decided to change the name, change the style a little bit, and we’re constantly changing; there’s always room for evolution in music.

    Wolf says the band is demoing more than 50 new songs, hoping to further refine them through performing, and eventually put out a full-length debut album as 20 Eyes.  The band is also working on a TV pilot, a comedy show based in San Pedro about the band’s strange encounters with fans and musicians while on the road and playing at venues. 

    MB: How do you see the future of 20 Eyes?

    WB: I’d like to get the songs out there, because we have a lot of songs that we’re very passionate about that we love a lot that we play all the time, but it’s all just a matter of getting it to a wider audience.  Because we have songs that I think are deserving of an audience and constantly gonna get better and better, so … we can grow along with our fan base that we already have and turn that into something, touring more, start to get more real radio play here, and things like that.

    AM: To put out a full-length album would be amazing [and] do a lot more touring.

    WB:  That’s what I love about being in a band.  Performing is half of it, and writing is half of it, and I love writing so much. Just doing that, writing new songs. Hopefully put out another new song soon.  It’s happening very organically, too, because we haven’t paid anybody to get our song out there.  People have just been globbing onto it and spreading it by themselves, and I think that’s really exciting.

    MB: Who are some of your favorite artists?

    AM: Blink-182 was one of the first artists that I was inspired by, Travis Barker’s drumming.  Of course, Green Day.  A few ska bands that my brothers listened to, Reel Big Fish.  No Doubt, they have one of my favorite drummers.

    WB: When I was really young, I just listened to whatever my dad listened to, and my dad was more of a disco guy, which was really random because before that he was more of a metal guy, so I really liked Metallica.  My mom liked a lot of punk stuff, so I really like The Sex Pistols, The Ramones, The Clash, and all those really quintessential punk bands, Buzzcocks.  But then when I discovered music I was in like 6th or 7th grade, Green Day came out with American Idiot, and I was like, “That’s what I love. That’s the thing.”  My first concert was Green Day, and from then on in, they were my favorite band ever.  But I love The Beastie Boys.  And, it’s horrible to say it, but I love Kanye West and I love hip-hop. We listen to, like, everything now.  I love Grouplove and Foster the People and Young the Giant, all those kinda indie bands that came out in like 2011 and 2012.

    Chance Famighetti: My dad was always into blues, and that got me into playing the piano.  I started the piano when I was four, and since then I’ve been really into that kinda stuff.  And then, early on, I got into really poppy rock, like Maroon 5.  That was always my favorite.  And now I’m super into hip-hop, as Wolf said, and we’re all into alternative stuff.

    WB: Oh, I think the best band that’s come out in the last 10 years is Cage the Elephant.  I love Cage the Elephant, their songs are always good.  And David Bowie, which is crazy that he’s dead now.  My mom, that was like her favorite person besides Debbie Harry.  So when I was younger, Ziggy Stardust, that whole album and that era was really cool to me.

    Check the band’s Facebook at www.facebook.com/20eyesmusic and Twitter at https://twitter.com/20eyesband, for live dates and upcoming shows.

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  • True Leadership Demands Action in a Crisis

    By James Preston Allen, Publisher

    “True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that the edifice, which produces beggars, needs restructuring.”

                                                                                                      —Martin Luther King Jr.

    Recently, I attended the 24th Annual Empowerment Congress Summit at USC sponsored by Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas of the Second District.

    He is the first politician, either black or white, to call the “homeless crisis” not only the challenge of our time, not only a humanitarian crisis, but also a “civil rights” issue. He is perhaps uniquely positioned to voice this perspective, as some 47 percent of the homeless living in the county are black, out of a general population of 9 percent.

    Ridley-Thomas’ address to the Empowerment Congress took on the sing-song quality of a sermon by a Baptist preacher, reminiscent of Dr. Martin Luther King, as he outlined the challenges of homelessness in Los Angeles County.

    “With more than 44,000 homeless [people] on any given night and many more perhaps just one day away from homelessness, Los Angeles County is mired in a crisis of massive proportions,” he said. “Compounding this problem is the fact that there is a local shortage of 500,000 affordable housing units. The combination of surging housing costs, plunging incomes and diminished opportunities has left one in four Angelinos living in poverty with few prospects of a better life.”

    The county has only recently completed some 1,900 low-income units regionally.

    Clearly, Ridley-Thomas’ view of the problem is a more holistic one compared to some of the members of the Los Angeles City Council. They are more focused on implementing and enforcing anti-vagrancy laws.

    Councilman Joe Buscaino of the 15th District, by contrast, as emphasized enforcing the onerous Municipal Code 56.11 rather than working on increasing the number of available emergency shelter beds in either the city or his district.

    His leadership has been about as effective as his cleanup of the homeless encampment surrounding the San Pedro Post Office on Beacon Street on Christmas Eve.

    Leadership in this context demands action, not more excuses for why we still have homeless people living on the streets at the beginning of the El Niño winter season.

    Leadership demands a critical response to residents and business owners who object to encampments littering the streets and sidewalks of our communities—other than temporary enforcement of a municipal code that has been repeatedly challenged on constitutional grounds.

    Leadership demands swift action not repeated closed-door discussion of the facts and data of the homeless problem or the oft-repeated narrative that the majority of the people living on the streets are “shelter resistant.”

    The facts are that we have 44,000 homeless people in the county and the Los Angeles County Grand Jury claims there are just 2,772 shelter beds. What leadership demands is the opening of emergency shelters.

    In the greater Los Angeles Harbor Area, there is just one emergency shelter—the Long Beach Rescue Mission. There are no emergency shelters in San Pedro, Harbor City, Lomita, Harbor Gateway or, God forbid, in Rancho Palos Verdes. Wilmington’s Beacon Light Mission, with its combined total of 20 beds for men and 20 beds for women for seven days, is not considered emergency shelter. There are nonprofits that provide assisted housing like Harbor Interfaith Services and Harbor View House if a potential client qualifies under their program guidelines. But most of our 1,500 destitute neighbors in the 15th District without shelter don’t qualify for one reason or another. The causes are many, but the solutions are few.

    Everyone who has read the City of Los Angeles’ report on homelessness, or looked at the statistics, knows how daunting a problem this is. However, our political leaders also know how and have the power to act in a crisis.

    Locally, the California National Guard Armory on 13th Street has historically been used as an emergency shelter. I don’t understand why the council office has not acted to open it at this time.

    Moreover, there have to be hundreds of vacant or underutilized government owned properties throughout this district, if not the city and county of Los Angeles that could be commandeered by executive action to immediately address this crisis.

    These temporary emergency shelters would address the suffering of the homeless on the streets, and immediately redress the blight and complaints of the community, while giving social service workers a focal point to start addressing the underlying causes and conditions of homelessness.

    If this were any other kind of crisis, like an earthquake or a tsunami, there would have been an instantaneous “all hands on deck” response. Emergency resources of the city would have been triggered, the Red Cross would have been activated and the National Guard would be called up—something would be done.

    Yet, what we have here is a political bureaucratic stalemate of elected leadership arguing over the shape of the problem, the terms of the solutions and the enormity of the costs. This is one of the great moral conflicts of our time and it not only takes great courage but true leadership to command real solutions. Both of which seem to be truly lacking in some parts of Los Angeles. And, homelessness is a problem the LAPD can’t arrest its way out of.,

    And in honor of one of our greatest moral leaders whose birthday was celebrated this week, I’ll leave you with this one last thought:

    “The hottest place in hell is reserved for those who remain neutral in times of great moral conflict.”—Martin Luther King Jr.

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  • It Isn’t Just a Game, Anymore

    By Joseph Baroud, Contributing Reporter

    The recent release of NFL Hall-of-Famer Frank Gifford’s autopsy and the timely premiere of the movie Concussion has many people taking a second look at the game that millions love.

    The results of post-mortem brain studies of former football players have blindsided many, yielding frightening facts about contact sports, specifically NFL football. The sport has replaced 23 Sundays of the year for many throughout the world.

    Football players didn’t just begin getting concussions during the past decade. Concussions have always been a consequence of contact sports. Recent advances in medicine have yielded the discovery of a condition called chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE.

    CTE is a degenerative disease found in people who have sustained numerous concussions and blows to the head. People diagnosed with CTE often end up dealing with dementia, memory loss, aggression, confusion and depression. Sometimes, it even ends with a person with CTE taking his or her own life. CTE, for the time being, can only be diagnosed in patients post-mortem. It has been found in 87 former NFL players during in the past 10 years. Players are now dealing with serious effects of the game they played their whole life.

    The National Football League has promised to fight to make the game safer.

    But there is evidence that the NFL has known more—and done less—about CTE and other mentally or physically debilitation conditions than it has let on. The league feared it would be in danger once players began finding out about the permanent, adverse reactions that years of blows to the head caused. In 2013, the league settled with several former players for damages they sustained during their playing days. The settlement was not only for injuries sustained, but the information the league withheld from these players.

    Players or their survivors were paid a combined total of $765 million. 18,000 players are eligible for this settlement. Former athletes representing the most severe cases of Parkinson’s disease, Lou Gehrig’s disease and CTE will receive between $1 and $5 million. Those with moderate cases such as Alzheimer’s disease and dementia would receive $190,000.

    The NFL Players Association has advocated heavily on the side of their own, especially those whose conditions have left them incapable of doing so.

    “Football, in general, would have us believe that we could make the game safe,” said Dr. Lawrence Genen, a psychiatrist with The Genen Group. “But the reality is that evidence shows that repetitive blows to the head will ultimately lead to chronic traumatic encephalopathy.”

    The NFL will have a tough time making its game safe, and regardless, the likelihood of developing something like CTE can’t even be slimmed down, Genen said.

    “It’s very difficult to imagine a way in which you’re truly going to significantly decrease the risk of developing CTE,” Genen said. “I appreciate that they’re making attempts to make the game safer by making an effort to eliminate helmet-to-helmet hits, but the feedback is that those hits still do occur and even good tackles often result in blows to the head.”

    Not only are the professionals susceptible to diseases caused from repetitive head trauma, Pop Warner, high school and collegiate level players are also susceptible. “I’ve talked to some trainers, particularly with the YMCA, and they feel the younger athletes are at a higher risk,” said Dr. Harley Deere, a neurologist with Dignity Health at St. Mary’s Medical Center in Long Beach. “‘[They] should play flag football until they get into high school.”

    Younger players are at risk because they’re still learning how to tackle and specialists believe that adolescent players are more vulnerable to developing CTE from multiple head blows over a period of time.

    A smart mouth-guard, which transmits real-time information via bluetooth in order to pinpoint the exact location and direction of a head injury, is one of many precautionary tools being developed. Functional magnetic resonance imaging, known as fMRI, also helps by showing how the affected area is functioning, as opposed to a regular MRI, which only reveals the structure. But a helmet can only help guard the exterior of the head.

    “[That] the helmet doesn’t stop the direct blow to the brain is the problem,” Deere said. “The brain is inside your skull and the helmet is good, it protects your skull, but it doesn’t protect the blow to the brain, because the brain moves inside the skull.

    “I think it comes down to the people who are administering the program, whether it be the schools, the people pushing these programs, they [should be] held responsible to make sure the kids are protected.”

    Genen cited a New York Times article regarding helmetless practices. The article suggested that not using a helmet forces players to tackle using their arms and bodies, placing an emphasis on proper technique.

    The article referred to a study featuring the University of New Hampshire football team. Half of the team practiced twice a week without wearing helmets. During the regular season, players wore helmets equipped with sensors that kept track of the number of impacts and the force of those impacts to the head. By season’s end, the half of the team that participated in those helmetless practices were hitting their head about 30 percent less than the half that didn’t.

    Putting specialists on the sidelines to help evaluate injuries was also recommended.

    “It would be great to see, for almost every team in all sports, to have a psychiatrist as part of their coterie of team physicians,” Genen said.

    The National Institute of Health is working with the NFL to find the closest thing to a resolution. The NFL promised to donate $30 million to the NIH for traumatic head injury research. The NFL would hold on to the money and allocate the necessary amount for each project the NIH presents and is approved. Even though the NFL said the money would come with no strings attached, it vetoed an NIH proposal.

    NIH announced a 7-year, $16 million research initiative that it wanted the NFL to fund with the money the league promised. However, when the NIH selected the leader of their research team, the NFL reneged on this specific project, forcing the NIH to fund it itself.

    The future of football might be not in the hands of those who catch it, but with the doctors and researchers involved with the NIH and this situation.

    Dr. Robert Stern, a prominent researcher from Boston University, was selected by the NIH to head the research group in charge of the 7-year study. Stern has been critical of the league in the past, saying commissioner Roger Goodell inherited a cover-up from his predecessor Paul Taglibue. He also wrote a critical 61-page report opposing the league’s settlement with the players, claiming many players who were affected would not be eligible to receive any award from it.

    The study, which the NIH will fund, will consist of 50 researchers at 17 different institutions. Hundreds of former NFL and collegiate players also volunteered to participate as studies.

    The aim is to detect, define and measure the progression of CTE.



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    Keystone Pipeline Lawsuit Portends Anti-Democratic Decisions

    By Paul Rosenberg, Senior Editor

    On Jan. 7, TransCanada, the company behind the recently-rejected Keystone XL pipeline, filed two lawsuits—one in federal court, the other seeking $15 billion in damages under the North American Free Trade Agreement’s Investor-State Dispute Settlement provisions.

    “A powerful legal tool designed to protect foreign investors could undermine commitments made in Paris last month to reign in climate warming emissions,” wrote Brian Bienkowski for The Daily Climate. “The tool [Investor-State Dispute Settlement] is tucked into two pending trade deals President [Barack] Obama wants to finalize this year…. The language is de rigueur for trade agreements and is designed to protect against what’s known as ‘loss of expected profits.’”

    TransCanada’s lawsuit exposed a fundamental contradiction between Obama’s global warming activism and the trade agenda he continues to pursue. This despite intense opposition from environmentalists, labor activists and others in the Democratic Party, who’ve opposed similar deals all the way back to NAFTA in 1993.

    Environmentalists’ condemnations came quickly.

    “This isn’t going to get the pipeline built, and it is going to remind Americans how many of our rights these agreements give away,” said Bill McKibben, co-founder of 350.org, the leading organizer of the global grassroots climate change movement.

    “These destructive provisions that wrongly empower corporations to attack our safeguards show exactly why NAFTA was wrong and why the dangerous and far-reaching Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is worse and must be stopped in its tracks,” added Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune.

    “This case, hopefully, is like the canary in the coal mine letting us know what we’d be getting into,” Public Citizen’s Lori Wallach said on Democracy Now! “The TPP would give 9,500 more companies—big multinationals from Japan, in banking, in manufacturing, mining firms from Australia—the right to do this.”

    Although various commentators offered different assessments, the $15 billion claim is objectively dubious. Plummeting oil prices could render the entire project unprofitable (Shell recently gave up on Arctic exploration, taking a $7 billion loss after nine years, partly because of this). At best, it’s much less certain than originally expected. (Prices peaked at more than $140 per barrel in 2008, and were still more than $100 as recently as May 2014, but are now under $30 per barrel.) Objective reality has almost nothing to do with the trade deal framework, which operates in a world of its own.

    The federal lawsuit seems far-fetched according to reporting by Reuters, which noted TransCanada’s claim that the decision was “unconstitutional.” In contrast, they cited James Rubin, an environmental regulatory lawyer with Dorsey & Whitney, who called the federal suit “challenging.” Reuters explained, “He noted that courts have considered cross-border pipeline decisions before and have generally found they fall within the president’s discretion.

    But international trade law is radically different—Sharia law for CEOs, crafted in secret for years by governments and corporations, with no public input at all, until hasty up-or-down votes on final bills. The NAFTA suit will be heard by a secret, private 3-person arbitration panel of the exact same kind that’s included in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, TPP. Win or lose in the long run—expected to take years—the lawsuit’s filing drew sharp attention to how the TPP could effectively cripple efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions, just weeks after a landmark international agreement of almost 200 countries seemed to have signaled a new era of serious commitment to fight climate change.

    “There was nothing unusual about the proposed pipeline or the oil it was intended to carry,” TransCanada argued in its NAFTA compliant, pointing to earlier pipeline permits that had been granted, before grassroots opposition gained traction. “Environmental activists, however, turned opposition to the Keystone XL Pipeline into a litmus test for politicians—including U.S. President Barack Obama—to prove their environmental credentials…. The activists’ strategy succeeded.”

    Thus, TransCanada’s claim is that democratic responsiveness violates NAFTA—and, by extension TPP. But it also ignores how falling oil prices and other factors may have changed the assessment. It’s now widely realized that vast fossil fuel reserves must be left in the ground, in order to protect our future. This wasn’t yet recognized when the Keystone proposal was submitted in 2008. As with terminal building and expansion projects locally, the default practice of piecemeal analysis, neglecting or minimizing cumulative impacts, may well be “traditional,” but does not reflect reality, nor protect public health and welfare. In this instance, if rejecting Keystone were vital to securing widespread buy-in by other countries reducing carbon emissions, the cumulative impact of the project would be far larger than originally assumed. Thus, the Obama administration decision to reject the pipeline would be very sound public policy—but could still be seriously attacked under NAFTA, or the proposed TPP.

    “The idea that some trade agreement should force us to overheat the planet’s atmosphere is, quite simply, insane,” McKibben commented.

    But it wouldn’t be the first time an Investor-State Dispute Settlement provision has been used to protect life-threatening corporate behavior, as it’s already being used to fight a cigarette packaging law in Australia under a similar system. Here in the United States, a meat-packaging law, passed partly in response to mad cow disease, was recently repealed after the World Trade Organization ruled against it, authorizing retaliatory tariffs of more than $1 billion.

    Despite the clear threat signaled by the lawsuit, the following Tuesday, Jan. 12, Obama pushed for passage of the TPP in his State of the Union speech, calling it “the right thing to do,” just two paragraphs before touting “the most ambitious agreement in history to fight climate change” that it threatens to undermine.

    The disconnect in Obama’s speech is not new in Democratic Party politics, but it also reflects a deep disconnect in the much broader global policy world, as well, pointed out by Ilana Solomon, head of the Sierra Club’s Responsible Trade Program.

    “In the halls of power where the [Paris] deal was being crafted there was very little discussion of trade and there’s a real challenge that these two issues—climate and trade—are operating in separate silos,” Solomon said. “In the trade negotiations, climate change is totally absent from the discussions…. If we’re really serious about taking on the climate crisis, we have to stop entering into trade agreements that constrain our ability to do so.”

    Philip Morris Asia (headquartered in Hong Kong) used a similar Investor-State Dispute Settlement provision to try to block a 2012 Australian law which required cigarettes to be sold in plain, logo-free brown packages, with prominent health warnings. After losing in Australian court, the tobacco giant turned to Investor-State Dispute Settlement provisions under a 1993 trade agreement between Australia and Hong Kong. The case is still pending.

    “I.S.D.S. provisions have been a common part of trade agreements for 50 years, and they were originally intended to protect companies against foreign governments expropriating their assets or discriminating against them in favor of domestic competitors,” James Surowiecki explained in the New Yorker this past October.

    But the once-rare Investor-State Dispute Settlement lawsuits have become increasingly common, and with expanded reach “against regulations they perceive as unfair” such as Australia’s cigarette packaging law. And Surowiecki also pointed out that “Canada was successfully sued for not granting a permit to a mining company on environmental grounds.”

    Which is one reason the TPP is so worrying. It actually includes a carve-out provision barring tobacco companies from suing under its Investor-State Dispute Settlement provisions, “unquestionably a good thing,” as Surowiecki noted. “But creating a carve-out only for tobacco underscores the basic problem with I.S.D.S.”

    If it’s a bad idea to let tobacco companies wield that weapon against the common good, it’s even worse to let fossil fuel companies do the same. Tobacco companies kill hundreds of thousands of people every year. Fossil fuel companies threaten modern society as we know it, putting hundreds of millions, if not billions of lives at risk in the decades ahead. Investor-State Dispute Settlement provisions are a powerful weapon for them to use in blocking governments from acting to help save us.

    This past May, speaking at Nike in Beaverton, Oregon, Obama flat-out denied the existence of any such threat.

    “Critics warn that parts of this deal would undermine American regulation, food safety, worker safety, even financial regulations,” Obama said. “This—they’re making this stuff up…. This is just not true. No trade agreement is going to force us to change our laws.”

    But that very same month, that’s exactly what happened—or at least started to. The World Trade Organization ruled against a U.S. appeal to keep its country-of-origin labeling regulation for imported cuts of beef and pork.

    “It took 50 years for us consumer groups to actually get mandatory country-of-origin labeling for meat,” Lori Wallach of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch told Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! on Jan. 7.

    It finally became law in 2008, a belated response to the mad cow flare-up in the early 2000s.

    “The polling shows 90 percent of Americans love that law,” Wallach said.

    Domestic courts in Canada and the United States refused to strike it down, but then industry groups brought it to the World Trade Organization—and won.

    Industry groups “cheered the ruling” according to a report by The Hill, which covers Congress, which quoted a press release from the North American Meat Institute, saying, “If there ever was any question that mandatory country-of-origin labeling is a trade barrier that violates our international agreements, the WTO ruling against the United States today should lay those doubts to rest.”

    The Hill went on to report that “NAMI said it will work with Congress to repeal COOL once and for all.”

    Then, in early December, the World Trade Organization ruled that Canada and Mexico could impose retaliatory tariffs of $1.1 billion (Canadian) and $227.8 million (United States), respectively. Shortly after that, Congress repealed the regu- lation.

    But Obama’s claim that no trade agreement would force a change in U.S. laws wasn’t the only questionable thing he said at Nike that day. He also sought to discredit critics of TPP who point to disastrous results of NAFTA:

    When you ask folks, specifically, “What do you oppose about this trade deal?” they just say, “NAFTA.” NAFTA was passed 20 years ago. That was a different agreement. And in fact, this agreement fixes some of what was wrong with NAFTA by making labor and environmental provisions actually enforceable.

    But far less has changed than Obama then claimed, now that TPP’s text has been released.

    “The actual language that TransCanada is using in this case, because they filed a brief, is the same language that, word for word, is replicated in TPP,” Walloch said. “There are bells and whistles that have been changed” between NAFTA and TPP, but, “In many ways, actually, TPP expands investor-state [claims]. It allows more kinds of challenges.”

    It’s not the first time Obama promised to improve on NAFTA, and failed to deliver. He promised to renegotiate NAFTA several different times during the 2008 election campaign, but changed his mind after the election. On Aug. 11, 2009, Democracy Now! reported on Obama’s first summit meeting with leaders from NAFTA partners Canada and Mexico, where he gave the following excuse for reversing himself:

    At a time when the economy has been shrinking drastically and trade has been shrinking around the world … we probably want to make the economy more stabilized in the coming months before we have a long discussion around further trade negotiations.

    But the unspoken premise here is that NAFTA is good for the economy, and disrupting it would be risky. Nothing could be further from the truth. A detailed analysis from the Economic Policy Institute in May 2011, found that “As of 2010, U.S. trade deficits with Mexico totaling $97.2 billion had displaced 682,900 U.S. jobs.”

    The report broke down job losses by state and congressional district. Instead of trade surpluses and job growth promised when NAFTA was passed, the U.S. trade balance had gone from a slight surplus ($1.6 billion) to the aforementioned $97.2 billion deficit. Most of the displaced jobs (60.8 percent—415,000 jobs) were in manufacturing industries, with computer and electronic parts (22 percent—150,300 jobs) and motor vehicles and parts (15.8 percent—108,000 jobs) leading the way.

    Two years after Economic Policy Institute’s report, as NAFTA turned 20, Economic Policy Institute co-founder Jeff Faux wrote a critical overview, published by Foreign Policy In Focus, in which he called NAFTA “a template for neoliberal globalization,” that impacted American workers in four main ways:

    First, it caused the loss of some 700,000 jobs as companies moved their production to Mexico, where labor was cheaper…

    Second, NAFTA strengthened the ability of U.S. employers to force workers to accept lower wages and benefits…

    Third, NAFTA drove several million Mexican workers and their families out of the agriculture and small business sectors, which could not compete with the flood of products—often subsidized—from U.S. producers. This dislocation was a major cause of the dramatic increase of undocumented workers in the United States…

    Fourth, and ultimately most importantly, NAFTA created a template for the rules of the emerging global economy, in which the benefits would flow to capital and the costs to labor. Among other things, NAFTA granted corporations extraordinary protections against national labor laws that might threaten profits…

    The same corporate protections block consumer and environmental-protection laws. Since workers are also consumers, who live in the environment, they suffer a triple blow under NAFTA and all later agreements based on the NAFTA template.

    “In U.S. politics, the passage of NAFTA under President Bill Clinton signaled that the elites of the Democratic Party—the ‘progressive’ major party—had accepted the reactionary economic ideology of Ronald Reagan,” Faux wrote.

    Although Faux didn’t mention it, the consequences were dire. NAFTA passed the Senate 61-38, and passed the House 234-200. But Republicans supported it roughly 3-1 in both chambers, while Democrats split 27-26 in the Senate, and rejected it strongly in the House, 156-102. (Bernie Sanders, the sole independent, voted against it.) Intense White House lobbying was crucial to its passage in the House. Yet, this effort was a major contributor to the Democrats landslide losses in 1994. It turned Perot and his voters against the Democrats, while also helping to depress the Democratic base vote.

    The story is told in detail in Three’s A Crowd: The Dynamic of Third Parties, Ross Perot, and Republican Resurgence by Ronald Rapoport and Walter Stone, but political elites are in deep denial over such matters, blaming a wide range of other things instead.

    Perhaps that helps explain why Obama remains firmly committed to trying to pass TPP, but as a candidate, Hillary Clinton is much more wary about repeating her husband’s mistake, and she’s joined Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley in a united front of Democratic candidates opposed to the deal. While the media now has largely chosen to ignore TransCanada’s suit, the underlying issue is a ticking time bomb as we head toward the election in November.


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  • Underwater Parks Day: COMMUNITY Calendar Jan. 14, 2016

    Jan. 16
    Underwater Parks Day
    Join Cabrillo Marine Aquarium for Underwater Parks Day. By attending this free event, you can learn about Marine Protected Areas in Southern California that went into effect on January 1, 2012.
    Time: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Jan. 16
    Cost: Free
    Details: (310) 548-7562; www.cabrillomarineaquarium.org.
    Venue: Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, 3720 Stephen M. White Drive, San Pedro
    Jan. 17
    Uptown Word Reading, Art Series
    January’s Uptown Word Reading & Arts Series will focus on San Bernardino. The event will feature Ruth Nolan, Isabel Quintero and Uptown Word organizer, Liz Gonzalez, three writers who have all at one time in their lives lived in San Bernardino. There will be an open mic following the readings, as well as free light refreshments.
    Time: 1 p.m. Jan. 17
    Cost: Free
    Details: Uptown Word website
    Venue: North Branch Library, 5571 Orange Ave., Long Beach
    Jan. 17
    Salt Marsh Open House
    Step out into nature and discover the hidden world of the Salinas de San Pedro Salt Marsh.
    Join Cabrillo Marine Aquarium educators and Coastal Park Naturalists as they help uncover the world of mud and water that is our local wetland.
    Time: 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Jan. 17
    Cost: Free
    Details: (310) 548-7562; www.cabrillomarineaquarium.org.
    Venue: Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, 3720 Stephen M. White Drive, San Pedro
    Jan. 22
    Farmer’s Market
    Experience the downtown San Pedro Farmer’s Market’s fresh produce and craft vendors.
    Time: 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Jan. 22
    Cost: Free
    Details: (562) 449-9299
    Venue: 6th Street between Pacific Avenue and Mesa Street, San Pedro
    Jan. 22
    Creation Station
    Participate in hands-on craft activities that are appropriate for all ages.
    Time: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Jan. 22 through 24
    Cost: Free
    Details: (310) 732-1270; www.CraftedPortLA.com
    Venue: Crafted at the Port of Los Angeles, 112 E. 22nd St., San Pedro
    Jan. 23
    Pet Parade
    Break out the top hats and tiaras for the Port of Long Beach’s 2016 pet parade.
    Time: 9 to 10 a.m. Jan. 23
    Cost: Free
    Details: www.portoflosangeles.org
    Venue: Downtown Harbor, 6th Street at Harbor Boulevard, San Pedro

    Jan. 23
    The Great San Pedro Crab Feed
    The Harbor Area Chapter of the Rotary Club is hosting The Great San Pedro Crab Feed, a family-style dinner.
    Time: 5 to 9 p.m. Jan. 23
    Cost: $60
    Details: (310) 210-8577; arlenedickey@gmail.com
    Venue: Cabrillo Youth Center, 3000 Shoshonean Road, San Pedro

    Jan. 23
    San Pedro Relay for Life’s Purple Ball
    Support the American Cancer Society at the San Pedro Relay for Life’s Purple Ball
    Time: 6 p.m. Jan. 23
    Cost: $80
    Details: (310) 753-3334; Purple4Relay@aol.com
    Venue: DoubleTree by Hilton Port of Los Angeles Hotel, 2800 Via Cabrillo Marina, San Pedro

    Jan. 23
    Full Moon Yoga
    Be part of January’s Full Moon Yoga at Terranea Resort. Reservations are required. Donations will go to charity.
    Time: 6 p.m. Jan. 23
    Cost: $20
    Details: (310) 265-2740; www.Terranea.com
    Venue:. Terranea Resort, 100 Terranea Way, Rancho Palos Verdes, Peninsula
    Jan. 24
    Sandy Banks
    The Friends of San Pedro Library are presenting Sandy Banks, a CNN, PBS and NPR commentator and celebrated speaker and former columnist for the Los Angeles Times. She will discuss topics the future of print journalism and the Los Angeles Times.
    Time: 2 p.m. Jan. 24
    Cost: $15
    Details: www.friendsspl.org
    Venue: 434 W. 6th St., San Pedro

    Jan. 27
    Join SEA Club
    Third to sixth grade students enrolled in Cabrillo Marine Aquarium’s SEA Club (Science Education Afternoons) will learn while having fun exploring the local marine environment. The club will meet from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. on four consecutive Wednesdays, Feb. 3 through 24. Preregistration is required; deadline to register is Jan. 27.
    Time: 3:30 to 5:30 p.m., Wednesdays, Feb. 3 through 24
    Cost: $30
    Details: (310) 548-7562; www.cabrillomarineaquarium.org
    Venue: Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, 3720 Stephen M. White Drive, San Pedro
    Jan. 28
    Heart of the Harbor Local Harvest Farmer’s Market
    Enjoy the Heart of the Harbor Local Harvest Farmer’s Market in Wilmington
    Time: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Jan. 28
    Cost: Free
    Details: www.LocalHarvestFarmersMarkets.com
    Venue: L Street between Avalon Boulevard and Marine Avenue, Wilmington

    Jan. 31
    45th Annual Whale Fiesta
    This fun-filled family event, co-sponsored by Cabrillo Marine Aquarium and the Los Angeles Chapter of the American Cetacean Society, celebrates marine mammals, and the beginning of the migration of the Pacific gray whales along Southern California.
    More than, 20 marine life organizations will exhibit and provide information about their efforts to bring awareness and protection to these animals. Throughout the day our expert Cabrillo Whalewatch naturalists will give talks on various marine mammals.
    Time: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Jan. 31
    Cost: Free
    Details: www.cabrillomarineaquarium.org
    Venue:  Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, 3720 Stephen M. White, San Pedro

    Feb. 4
    Farmer’s Market
    Enjoy Providence Little Company of Mary Medical Center’s Farmer’s Market.
    Time: 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Feb. 4
    Cost: Free
    Venue: Providence Little Company of Mary Medical Center, 1300 W. 7th St., San Pedro

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  • 28th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration: ENTERTAINMENT Calendar Jan. 13, 2016

    Jan. 16
    28th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration
    Con Funk Shun and The Delfonics Review are the musical headliners for the 28th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration.
    Con Funk Shun’s 1977 LP, Secrets, was certified gold in the United States. The Delfonics Review has been performing to audiences all across the United States.
    Time: 12 to 5 p.m. Jan. 16
    Cost: Free
    Venue: Martin Luther King, Jr. Park, 1950 Lemon Ave., Long Beach
    Jan. 22
    Don Adler
    Don Alder’s music is a unique combination of deeply textured melody and story. Lyrical and compelling, his original songs are notes of exploration – some passionate and haunting, some hard-driven, others light and teasing. In quiet pieces or pushing right to the edge, Don’s phenomenal finger style playing and rich voice captivate. His style of playing incorporates finger-picking with simultaneous percussion to create a wall of sound. 40 per cent of his show includes vocal and he only does original material. His music is ranging from jazz to folk to blues to world music.
    Time: 8 p.m. Jan. 22
    Cost: $20
    Details: (310) 519-1314; http://alvasshowroom.com
    Venue: Alvas Showroom, 1417 W. 8th St., San Pedro

    Jan. 23
    OHM is the brainchild of Chris Poland (guitar: ex Megadeth, Damn the Machine, others) and Robertino Pagliari (bass: ex New Yorkers, others), and Nick Menza (drums:ex-Megadeth).OHM has been making top-shelf rock and jazz music since 1998.
    Time: 8 p.m. Jan. 23
    Cost: $30
    Details: (310) 519-1314; http://alvasshowroom.com
    Venue: Alvas Showroom, 1417 W. 8th St., San Pedro

    Jan. 23
    Burns’ Night
    Enjoy a night of bagpipes and a Scottish menu with Haggis in honor of Robert Burns, Scottland’s renowned poet.
    Time: 6 to 10 p.m. Jan. 23
    Cost: Free
    Details: www.whaleandale.com
    Venue: The Whale & Ale, 327 W. 7th St., San Pedro

    Jan. 23
    Itzkoff, Melik-Adamyan Perform The Interludes Concert Series
    Classical Crossroads’ The Interludes concert series present Beverly Hills National Auditions winners, amicus duo, cellist Coleman Itzkoff and pianist Alin Melik-Adamyan, and the Sakura cello quintet.
    Time: 3 p.m. Jan. 23
    Cost: Free
    Details: (310) 316-5574; http://tinyurl.com/TheInterludes
    Venue: First Lutheran Church and School, 2900 W. Carson St., Torrance

    Jan. 24
    San Gabriel 7
    Experience a collection of Brazilian with horn driven jazz-funk.
    Time: 4 p.m. Jan. 24
    Cost: $15 and $20
    Details: (310) 519-1314; http://alvasshowroom.com
    Venue: Alvas Showroom, 1417 W. 8th St., San Pedro

    Jan. 24
    A Night of Modern Acoustic Guitar
    Enjoy a night of acoustic finger-style music played by guitarists from all over North America. The next generation of acoustic players, these musicians incorporate percussive and harmonic techniques that are considered to be the avant garde of acoustic music.
    Time: 8 p.m. Jan. 24
    Cost: $25
    Details: (310) 519-1314; http://alvasshowroom.com
    Venue: Alvas Showroom, 1417 W. 8th St., San Pedro

    Jan. 29
    The Sea Shanties
    The Sea Shanties have come ashore and will be in The Whale & Ale’s private dining room sining all of the favorite tunes
    Time: 7:30 p.m. Jan. 29
    Cost: Free
    Details: www.whaleandale.com
    Venue: The Whale & Ale, 327 W. 7th St., San Pedro

    Jan. 30
    TriFecta will perform, at 8 p.m. Jan. 30, at Alvas Showroom.
    Time: 8 p.m. Jan. 30
    Cost: $20
    Details: (310) 519-1314; http://alvasshowroom.com
    Venue: Alvas Showroom, 1417 W. 8th St., San Pedro

    Jan. 30
    The Bird Dogs
    The Bird Dogs, real life brothers Dylan and Zachary Zmed, bring a genuine and youthful Everly Brothers experience to the stage. The Zmeds deliver the same luminous harmonies originally sung by Don and Phil Everly..
    Time: 8 p.m. Jan. 30
    Cost: $25 to $140
    Details: http://tinyurl.com/hcyag94
    Venue: Grand Annex, 434 W. 6th St., San Pedro

    Jan. 31
    Be part of an afternoon of Cuban and African-influenced jazz.
    Time: 4 p.m. Jan. 31
    Cost: $10
    Details: (310) 519-1314; http://alvasshowroom.com
    Venue: Alvas Showroom, 1417 W. 8th St., San Pedro

    Feb. 4
    Albert McNeil Jubilee Singers of Los Angeles
    Cal State University Dominguez Hills presents Albert McNeil Jubilee Singers performing spirituals and other African-American music as part of Watts Rebellion Commemoration and Black History Month.
    The Albert McNeil Jubilee Singers of Los Angeles is a critically acclaimed choral ensemble founded in 1968 by Albert McNeil, a long-time Los Angeles-based conductor and music instructor who sought to bring attention to the vast body of folk music termed ‘African American,’ particularly music known as ‘Negro Spirituals.’ The singers’ rich and moving renditions of traditional African-American music, from spirituals to theatre music, a cappella to choral have been enjoyed by audiences all across the United States and in more than 70 countries.
    Time: 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. Feb. 4
    Cost: Free
    Details: (310) 243-3337; http://tinyurl.com/Albert-McNeil-Jubilee-Singers
    Venue: University Theatre, CSUDH, 1000 E. Victoria St., Carson

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  • ExxonMobil Safety Violations Meeting: ANNOUNCEMENTS Jan. 12, 2016

    Jan. 13
    ExxonMobil Safety Violations Meeting
    U.S. Chemical Safety board Chairwoman Vanessa Sutherland will be available for questions regarding an ongoing investigation into ExxonMobil’s Torrance refinery safety violations.
    A public meeting will feature Rep. Ted Lieu, Sutherland, Chemical Safety Board investigators, and representatives from the Torrance Refinery Action Alliance, California Occupational and Safety Halth Administration, California Environmental Protection Agency, Western States Petroleum Association, United Steelworkers (USW), and Blue Green Alliance.
    The public meeting will allow citizens to learn about the investigation into ExxonMobil’s Torrance refinery, ask questions and discuss what can be done to enhance the safety of our community.
    ExxonMobil has been under investigation since an explosion on February 18, 2015 tore through the facility and launched a heavy piece of equipment within feet of the highly-toxic modified hydrofluoric acid (HF) tank, as well as spreading ash throughout the community. Congressman Lieu and Congresswoman Waters formally requested a CSB investigation following the incident. Six months later, Cal/OSHA fined ExxonMobil $566,600 with 19 separate citations, including 18 classified as “serious” and six characterized as, “willful because Cal/OSHA found that Exxon did not take action to eliminate known hazardous conditions at the refinery and intentionally failed to comply with state safety standards.”
    Since the February explosion, several additional incidents have occurred at the Torrance refinery. On September 6, the Torrance Fire Department reported a “significant incident” when a leak occurred of highly-toxic modified HF. On October 23, a large steam cloud appeared above the refinery, the result of a leak that occurred in a pressurized eight-inch pipeline. These incidents have underscored the dangers posed to the community by toxic chemicals, which ExxonMobil’s worst-case scenario estimates could imperil the lives of a quarter million people in Southern California.
    Time: 5 p.m. Jan. 13
    Venue: Receiving area in front of Torrance City Council Chambers, 3031 Torrance Blvd., Torrance

    Jan. 14
    Long Beach Hosts Parks Public Input Meetings
    The City of Long Beach is participating in a comprehensive parks and recreation needs assessment being conducted by the County of Los Angeles. The public is encouraged to participate in a community meeting in Long Beach to ensure that the voices of the community are heard regarding priorities for future park development and rehabilitation.
    The following local community outreach workshop is scheduled to gather input about where new parks, recreation facilities, or open spaces areas are most needed; which parks need repair or expansion; and what type of recreation facilities are most needed:
    The goal of the Park Needs Assessment is to engage all communities within the County to gather data and input for future decision-making on parks and recreation. Specifically, the final report will determine study areas and will identify, prioritize and outline costs for potential park projects within each study area in the County.
    Time: 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Jan. 14,
    Details: www.lbparks.org
    Venue: Houghton Park, 6301 Myrtle Ave., Long Beach

    Jan. 19
    Minimum Wage
    The Long Beach City Council will consider receiving and filing recommendations from the Economic Development Commission, with regard to the minimum wage policy in the city.
    The city council will also consider directing the city manager to provide additional information or to prepare an ordinance relative to the implementation of the policy.
    Time: 5 p.m. Jan. 19
    Details: 16-0043
    Venue: Long Beach City Hall, 333 W. Ocean Blvd., Long Beach

    Jan. 19
    Eastbound Motorists Diverted to Pico Avenue.
    As part of the Gerald Desmond Bridge Replacement Project, eastbound Ocean Boulevard between the Desmond Bridge and downtown Long Beach will be closed for up to 36 months starting Jan. 19. Through traffic will take a short detour using Pico Avenue to rejoin Ocean Boulevard into downtown.
    A temporary, overnight closure of eastbound Ocean Boulevard from State Route 47 to Golden Shore will take place from 9 p.m. Jan. 18 to 5 a.m. Jan. 19 to prepare the roadway for the long-term detour. Eastbound traffic will be detoured to northbound SR-47.
    In addition, there will be an overnight detour for traffic using westbound Ocean Boulevard at Golden Shore. From 9 p.m. Jan. 18 to 5 a.m. Jan. 19, all westbound traffic will be diverted to Pico Avenue. Motorists will be able to rejoin westbound Ocean using the on-ramp from Pico.
    For the long-term eastbound Ocean detour starting Jan. 19, commuters heading to downtown Long Beach from the Gerald Desmond Bridge will exit Ocean Boulevard to Pico Avenue and rejoin Ocean via two signalized intersections, dedicated turn lanes and a newly striped two-lane on-ramp. Diverting eastbound traffic allows westbound Ocean to remain open during construction.
    The northbound Long Beach (710) Freeway connector will remain open until further notice during the long-term closure of eastbound Ocean.
    When completed in 2018, the new bridge will include six traffic lanes and four emergency shoulders, a higher clearance to accommodate new generations of cargo ships, and the Mark Bixby Memorial Bicycle and Pedestrian Path with scenic overlooks.
    The replacement project allows the Gerald Desmond Bridge to remain in use while the new bridge is under construction. The bridge project is a joint effort of Caltrans and the Port, with funding support from the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation
    Details: www.newgdbridge.com

    Jan. 20
    Complimentary Community Health Lectures
    Learn about arthritis prevention and reduction with the help of Romina Ghassemi. RSVP.
    Time: 7 p.m. Jan. 20
    Details: (310) 548-5656
    Venue: San Pedro Chiropractic and Posture, 1534 W. 125th St., San Pedro

    Jan. 21
    Community Engagement Meeting
    Participate in the Los Angeles countywide parks needs assessment, at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 21, at Peck Park.
    Time: 6:30 p.m. Jan. 21
    Venue: Peck Park, 560 N. Western Ave., San Pedro

    Jan. 23
    Coffee with Lowenthal, O’Donnell, Austin
    Councilman Al Austin, state Assemblyman Patrick O’Donnell and Rep. Alan Lowenthal invite you to join your friends and neighbors for a casual conversation over a cup of coffee.
    Share your thoughts on federal, state and local legislative issues important to you.
    Time: 9 to 10:30 a.m. Jan. 23
    Venue: Expo Arts Center, 4321 Atlantic Ave., Long Beach

    Jan. 27
    Complimentary Community Health Lectures
    Learn about t what muscle pain is and what to do with it with the help of Romina Ghassemi. RSVP.
    Time: 7 p.m. Jan. 27
    Details: (310) 548-5656
    Venue: San Pedro Chiropractic and Posture, 1534 W. 125th St., San Pedro

    Jan. 30
    E-waste, Shred Drive
    This e-waste and shred drive is hosted by the students of the Hughes Middle School Environmental Science Class. Funds raised will go towards taking the children of the class on different field trips where they will learn more about how to keep our world environmentally green and protected.
    Time: 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. Jan. 30
    Details: http://tinyurl.com/ShreadItRecycleIt
    Venue: Hughes Middle School, 3846 California Ave., Long Beach

    Feb. 22
    Now Trending
    Art students and recent graduates from leading Southern California art programs are invited to mine the cultural landscape of Los Angeles for inspiration leading to the submission of dynamic new work to be showcased in Palos Verdes Art Center’s Second Biennial Alpay Scholarship University Student Juried Exhibition, Now Trending. Submission deadline is Feb. 22.
    • All media considered – new media encouraged
    • Limited to three (3) submissions
    • No submission fee
    • Winning submission awarded $2,000 Alpay Purchase Prize and $10,000 scholarship from The Beverly G. Alpay Memorial Education Fund in support of the creation of new artwork to be exhibited in a 2017 solo exhibition.
    * Submissions open January 4, 2016 at pvartcenter.org
    * Submission deadline, February 22, 2016
    * Exhibition dates, March 17 – April 17, 2016
    Time: Feb. 22
    Details: (310) 541-2479; www.pvartcenter.org

    Sand Bags Available
    With the upcoming rain in our forecast, the Los Angeles Fire Department is offering free sandbags and/or sand at the following stations in District 15:
    Banning Park, 1331 Eubank St., Wilmington, (310) 548-7538 (bags only, call to confirm availability)
    24801 Frampton Ave., Harbor City, (Harbor City Recreational Center) (310) 548-7585 (call to confirm availability)
    Peck Park – 560 N. Western Ave., San Pedro, (310) 548-7580 – Dept. of Recs. & Parks (sand only, call to confirm availability)
    444 S. Harbor Blvd., Berth 86, San Pedro, (310) 548-7542 (bags only, call to confirm)
    18030 South Vermont Ave., Harbor Gateway, (310) 548-7579 (bags only, call to confirm availability)

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  • LBEDC Deliberates Minimum Wage Recommendations: RL NEWS Briefs Jan. 11, 2016

    LB Economic Development Commission Deliberates Minimum Wage Recommendations

    LONG BEACH — On Jan. 6, the Long Beach Economic Development deliberated its recommendations, which could be reviewed and voted on by the end of January.

    Commission Chairman Frank Colona recommended $13 as the minimum wage by Jan. 1, with a one-year exemption for nonprofits and businesses with less than 25 employees.

    The recommendations include incremental raises within three years, increasing the minimum wage in the city to $10.50 by Jan. 1, 2017, $12 by Jan. 1, 2018 and $13 by Jan. 1, 2019.

    The Long Beach City Council also will consider whether or not sick days and wage theft enforcement will be adopted and if there will be exemptions for youth, where they would be just paid the state minimum wage of $10.

    Some business owners argued that the city should define small businesses as having 50 employees or less. On Jan. 1, the state raised the minimum wage to $10 an hour. The council is expected to discuss minimum wage on Jan. 19.


    Los Angeles Releases Homelessness Strategy Report

    LOS ANGELES — On Jan. 7, the City of Los Angeles released a draft Homelessness Strategy Report, which lays the foundation for a regional approach to addressing this chronic issue. The report was requested by the Homelessness and Poverty Committee in June.
    The report calls for substantially expanded staffing, services, rental subsidies and permanent housing for the city’s homeless residents. Its recommendations will guide the mayor’s and city council’s short- and long-term homelessness policy decisions. The report also identifies potential funding streams and begins to estimate initial costs that will help inform the mayor’s proposed 2016/2017 budget.
    The draft Homelessness Strategy, which coincides with a strategy being issued by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, will be heard by the Homelessness and Poverty Committee on January 13, with a followup meeting later in the month. It is expected to be considered by the full Los Angeles City Council in February.
    This past fall, city leaders pledged $100 million in funding to address homelessness. At the mayor’s request, the city council in December approved $12.4 million in emergency relief funding, which is being used to get Angelenos off the street and out of harm’s way. With El Niño winter storms already hitting the Southland, these dollars are helping expand temporary housing and other critical services that meet urgent needs.
    Some of the principles of the Homelessness Strategy Report include:

    • Adopting a “No Wrong Door” approach to improve the city’s interactions with homeless people. From police officers to librarians, city employees will be empowered with the tools, relationships, and resources necessary to connect people in need to services and housing;
    • Establishing a focused homelessness governance infrastructure in the City so that there is institutional knowledge and accountability. This includes establishing a homelessness czar or coordinator;
    • Continuing to expand, improve and use the Coordinated Entry System as a core process that matches homeless people with vital resources;
    • Embracing the “Housing First” approach;
    • Using City funds to leverage federal, state, and county dollars to fill unfunded gaps;
    • Making more housing available at all income levels;
    • Working closely with Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority for expert guidance and support;
    • Ensuring that services and housing are provided in all Los Angeles communities.

    Since June, the Homelessness & Poverty Committee has taken input and provided guidance to the development of the draft plan, with meetings focused on:

    • Findings, trends and outcomes of the homeless count
    • Improving city department interactions with the homeless
    • Identifying and serving different levels of homelessness
    • Housing needs/funding
    • Homelessness governance structure
    • Mental health and health services for the homeless

    The public is invited to give feedback on the City’s Homelessness Strategy Report. Comments can be shared here: http://www.lamayor.org/homelessness-strategy-feedback


    Four Arrested on Federal Mail Fraud Charges

    LOS ANGELES – On Jan. 6, four men from Southern California have been arrested on charges that they embezzled more than $8 million from an industrial launderer based in Gardena that provided finishing services for Citizens of Humanity, a manufacturer of high-end designer jeans.

    Luis Mariano Rodriguez, 48, of East Los Angeles, the one-time president of CM Laundry LLC, and three associates were taken into custody yesterday morning for allegedly causing the laundry to pay fraudulent invoices that contained fictitious and inflated charges, and concealed Rodriguez’s role in the underlying transactions.

    Since 2007, CM Laundry has been owned by Citizens of Humanity LLC, a Huntington Park company that manufactures more than 1 million pairs of high-end denim jeans every year.

    The other three defendants arrested yesterday by special agents with the FBI and officers with the Los Angeles Police Department are:

    • Antonio Anguiano, 48, of Riverside, the owner of FI Products, which sold personal protective equipment;
    • Terry Jay Mink, 62, of Rancho Palos Verdes, the owner of H&T Industrial Products, a hardware company that serviced CM Laundry; and
    • Rene Exequiel Bautista, 43, of Sylmar, the owner of Valley Star Realty, which was used in the scheme under the fictitious business name “K&R Industrial Supplies.”

    Los Angeles. All four defendants were released on bond and were ordered to return to court for arraignments on Feb. 1.

    According to a criminal complaint filed on Dec. 30, 2016, Rodriguez caused CM Laundry to pay more than $8 million after fraudulent invoices were submitted to the company.

    According to the affidavit in support of the criminal complaint, Anguiano, through his company, FI Products, billed CM Laundry for over $3.6 million during the period of the scheme, which allegedly ran from about May 2007 to about September 2013. During this period, FI Products transferred about $2.3 million to Rodriguez and his company, Genesis Electronics Inc.

    Mink, through his company, H&T Industrial Products, billed CM Laundry for more than $5.5 million and transferred about $3.6 million to Rodriguez and Genesis.

    Bautista, a real estate agent participated in this scheme through his company, K&R Industrial Supplies, which he established in 2012 at the behest of Rodriguez and was used to submit invoices from Genesis to CM Laundry. Over an 18-month period, K&R Industrial Supplies billed CM Laundry for approximately $640,000 and transferred about $493,000 to Rodriguez and Genesis. “Bautista admitted Rodriguez produced and submitted all of the K&R Industrial Supplies invoices that were submitted to CM Laundry and paid by Citizens,” according to the complaint affidavit. “Bautista stated [in a deposition related to a civil lawsuit] that he did not create any of the K&R Industrial Supplies invoices, did not know what any of the invoiced items were, and did not supply anything to CM Laundry.”

    A criminal complaint contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty in court.

    The complaint charges Rodriguez with three counts of mail fraud. The other three defendants are charged with one count of mail fraud. If they are convicted, each of the four defendants would face a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison for each count.

    As a result of civil litigation brought by CM Laundry and Citizens of Humanity, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge in November 2015 ordered Rodriguez and several other defendants to pay a total of $9,563,786, according to the criminal complaint.

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  • Little Fish Theatre’s “Pick of the Vine”: Lite, Palatable Fare

    As is tradition, the Little Fish Theatre opened its 14th season with “Pick of the Vine,” an hors d’oeuvres platter of very short plays before the coming 10-course meal of full-lengths they will stage in 2016. They say it may be their regular patrons’ favorite show. Judging by audience reaction in the sold-out theatre on opening night, it seems Little Fish know their core demographic.

    It’s probably no coincidence that most every example of short theatrical performances you can think of—Vaudeville, Saturday Night Live, etc.—are comedic rather than dramatic. Perhaps numerous separate bits of drama would be too heavy to ingest in one sitting, while a sketch can be swallowed without making you too full to consume more. Whatever the rationale, this is the ethos that dominates “Pick of the Vine.” Of the 10 shorts on the menu, only two-and-a-half are not over-the-top comedies. If you like your funny subtle, “Pick of the Vine” is not the show for you. That’s just not what they’re going for.

    In fact, there’s such a consistency of tone that you would think a single author wrote at least half of these plays, if you didn’t know from the program that each is by a different author. For example, in How Nice of You to Ask (a college research assistant conducting a sex survey has the tables turned on him by his septuagenarian interview subject), The Temp (an office staff is a little too unfazed by the death of a temp recently in their midst), What You Don’t Know (two Caltrans-type workers decide how best to deal with a bit of roadkill with an identification tag), and Reston (a pair Ivy League alums are bound and determined that their progeny get in a preschool so selective that there are DNA requirements), just about every single joke is written and delivered with everything but a neon sign that says “LAUGH HERE.” That is a particular style of comedy, and—like all styles of comedy—whether it’s funny is a matter of taste. Considering that the audience laughed perhaps literally every time laughs were solicited, as mentioned above, Little Fish knows its patrons’ taste.

    For this reviewer, the most interesting pieces were the ones meant for a different part of the palate. Ten Picnics, a survey of the first four decades or so in the life of Frank as he revisits the same picnic spot with a series of women (first his mothers, then various dates, and eventually his wife and their own child), is a compelling idea, although ultimately it’s too ambitious for the brevity of each vignette, which makes the whole piece come off as too slight. Develop this one into a full-length play, and playwright Mark Harvey Levine may really have something.

    George D. Morgan’s The Wiggle Room seems both more successful and more of a missed opportunity. Morgan’s play is a fictionalized version of a real-life conference call that took place on the eve of the doomed 1986 Space Shuttle Challenger mission between NASA employees and managers at aerospace and manufacturing corporation Morton Thiokol. Perhaps being a fly on the wall for the call, in which NASA successfully inveigles Morton Thiokol to sign off on the pending launch even though they know that the temperature is such that O-rings are projected to fail (which they did, causing the in-flight explosion), is interesting enough, but what makes The Wiggle Room particularly compelling as a piece of theatre is that monomaniacal bureaucracy that is the lifeblood of Morgan’s NASA company men is funny. Ultimately, The Wiggle Room turns predictably somber, which almost comes off as a failure of nerve on Morgan’s part (although no doubt it would be a neat trick to make a play about a real-life corporate failure that cost seven people their lives funny from start to tragic finish).

    The best of the non-comedic works is M. Rowan Meyer’s Cancelled, which concerns a couple’s coping with the death of their would-be adopted son just days before they were to travel to Nigeria to bring him home. Director Branda Lock manages to keep the proceedings from running off the rails into melodrama, as well as orchestrating the night’s most effective blocking.

    The best of the comedies is David MacGregor’s Small Talk. On paper this tale of a young lawyer (Patrick Rafferty) dragging his girlfriend (Kathryn Farren) to pre-marriage counseling because she is incapable of making small talk—essential to the development of his future career—shouldn’t be as funny as it is, but the four-person cast’s various attempts (both real and role-playing) at conversation, more than a little of it centering on cheese, are golden. Rhythm is everything in Small Talk, and director Branda Lock once again does excellent work with her cast.

    The many, many roles in “Pick of the Vine” are handled by just nine actors, often called upon to play totally disparate roles in back-to-back scenes, and on occasion even to portray more than one character within a single piece. It’s quite an acting exercise, and without fail all of the cast members show themselves to be in good shape.

    It would be too much to say that “Pick of the Vine” has something for everybody, or even that it’s a repast with much of a varied menu. But for most people there’s not much here that will get stuck in your craw, and if you’re in the mood for some lite snacks with a few meatier morsels thrown in for good measure, “Pick of the Vine” is likely to hit the spot.


    Photo credit: Mickey Elliott

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  • There is No Place Like Home

    Gun Violence, Homelessness, a New Civil Consciousness

    By James Preston Allen, Publisher

    On the very same day that President Barack Obama grew emotional as he made a passionate call for a national “sense of urgency” to limit gun violence nationwide, the California Legislature passed a $2 billion package to “Prevent and Address Homelessness” in communities within the state.

    This happened during the same week armed men broke into the desolate headquarters of a federally owned wildlife refuge in Oregon and refusing to leave, “until the government stops its tyranny.”

    What a week of contrasts to start off the new year.

    I was left asking what took the president so long in taking executive action on gun control; the state legislature to act on homelessness? And just what does Ammon Bundy and his anti-government group, Citizens for Constitutional Freedom, really want?

    It’s easy to get cranial whiplash following mainstream reporting of events without any sort of historical context. Why should this year start any differently?

    The common thread that connects these three events is that they are attempts to redress long-term, one might say chronic, problems that have been with us forever it seems.

    America’s long and storied relationship with guns was established more than 200 years ago with the first shot that was fired at Concord, Connecticut marking the beginning of the American colonies uprising against the tyranny of British rule. These colonists, our ancestors, were called “terrorists” as they fought using guerrilla warfare tactics against the regimented lines of the red coats.

    We still celebrate our heritage, if not the tradition of resistance against repression in our history, whether it’s the American Revolution, the 1791 Whiskey Rebellion or the War of 1812. Even now, every sporting event begins with a performance of the “Star Spangled Banner.” The line, “The bombs bursting in air…” is not just a patriotic metaphor, it’s a national conviction in opposition to tyranny, whether foreign or domestic.

    I could write this entire column on the American love affair with guns going all the way back to duel between Vice President Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton (he’s the guy on your $10 bill), in which Hamilton was fatally shot.

    The Sandy Hook shooting is what moved Obama to decisively act, without the support of a Republican Congress. The rural uprising in southeast Oregon stands out as the counterpoint to the president’s message. This is a political conundrum that at present seems intractable.

    The homeless issue on the other hand seems equally insolvable, yet the grassroots uprising for curing this complicated and chronic epidemic has some new resolve.

    Getting our state legislators to act, to pass a $2 billion bond, to do anything at all to deal with a social crisis is astounding at the very least. It does show what can happen when people of good will, social consciousness and political support can accomplish when inspired and motivated.

    Yet, the money is just one part of a much bigger problem.

    I cannot believe that in a nation that can build the biggest dams to stave off droughts, bend rivers to provide waters to semi-arid regions like Los Angeles, and has the capacity to place a man on the moon, cannot solve homelessness or control the kinds of senseless massacres across this great land.

    What I do see as a possible cure to all of this is a new form of “civility” beginning to rise up against the nativist incivility that has from time to time gripped this nation out of fear of “the others”—particularly in the wake of the shootings in San Bernardino.

    What I see is a sense of community that embraces people—neighbor to neighbor—across previous boundaries of race, class and religion. That, at its very core has more to do with a very American creed of life, liberty and justice for all.

    This, I believe, is in the very core of our national consciousness and in the end will serve us far better than having a militarized state where everyone has to carry a gun and thousands are left without homes.

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