• Two Shipping Giants Might Merge

    By Richard Knee, Maritime Reporter

    A possible merger of two cargo-shipping titans whose container ships call at the Port of Los Angeles has maritime unions fearing job losses, and exporters and importers worrying about service-quality levels, but no one contacted for this story has said definitively whether they would ask government regulators to block the deal.

    Ownership consolidation in the shipping industry has been occurring over the past several decades. And while vessels in most of the world’s trade lanes are still sailing with less-than-full loads, the concentration of industry control into fewer and fewer hands increases the ease and likelihood of market manipulation.

    France’s CMA CGM and Singapore’s Neptune Orient Lines Ltd. announced jointly on Dec. 6 that the former would acquire the latter if APLantitrust authorities approve it. Neptune Orient Lines’ container ships operate under the APL brand; APL used to stand for American President Lines, the Oakland-based company that Neptune Orient Lines acquired in 1997.

    CMA CGM also used to be two shipping lines: Belgium-based Compagnie Maritime d’Affrètement and the French carrier Compagnie Générale Maritime.

    Neptune Orient Lines’ acquisition of APL included U.S.-flagged and -crewed ships, which Neptune Orient Lines/APL continue to operate under the 19-year-old Maritime Security Program enabling them to haul U.S. government-impelled shipments. At least one union, the International Organization of Masters, Mates and Pilots, based near Baltimore, fears that CMA CGM would remove some or all of the nine vessels that Neptune Orient Lines/APL has enrolled from the program.

    Representatives from both companies were silent on the question, as they were on whether they could guarantee that a merger would not result in a deterioration of service quality, though CMA CGM did say it planned to keep the APL brand alive.

    International Organization of Masters, Mates and Pilots president, Don Marcus, said there are 60 Maritime Security Program-enrolled ships. U.S.-flagged vessels carried about 90 percent of the government-impelled cargo during the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, from which “APL made a fistful of dollars,” he said. “It’s unknown if CMA CGM would have a commitment to the MSP,” he said.

    The International Organization of Masters, Mates and Pilots “very well might” launch or join an effort to persuade regulators to prevent CMA CGM from swallowing Neptune Orient Lines, he said. The International Organization of Masters, Mates and Pilots is part of a maritime labor alliance with the National Marine Engineers Beneficial Association, the longshore and “a few other” unions, he said. Neither of the longshore unions could be reached for comment.

    There’s an inter-union spat involved as well. Marcus said APL recently informed the International Organization of Masters, Mates and Pilots that it was replacing one Maritime Security Program-enrolled ship with one whose officers and crew had different representation.

    Representatives of two exporter-importer organizations said they were monitoring developments surrounding the proposed merger but neither said whether his group would fight it.

    The National Industrial Transportation League is “watching developments in the liner industry with great interest,” President Bruce Carlton said. Based near Washington, the league lobbies on behalf of U.S. producers and retailers, which rely on all transportation modes to move their goods.

    “There are no plans at the moment to organize a campaign against this or any other merger or acquisition, but we will be looking at measures of market share, market concentration, and so on with an eye on any potential negative impacts on competition,” Carlton said.

    Peter Friedmann, executive director of organizations representing exporters and importers of agricultural products, and West Coast freight intermediaries, said those companies “benefit by competition and choices” but acquisitions are normal in the existing dynamic business environment.

    Friedmann, who is based in Washington, has played a major role in shaping regulations governing the liner shipping industry. The groups he heads are the Agriculture Transportation Coalition and the Pacific Coast Council of Customs Broker and Freight Forwarder Associations.

    Representatives for the shipping lines sent terse e-mails that essentially amounted to “no comment.”

    Neptune Orient Lines spokeswoman Pamela Pung said that company “at the moment” had nothing to add to an announcement to the investment community confirming that merger talks were in progress.

    CMA CGM spokesman Tristan Bourassin said it was “not possible to provide this level of operational details at such an early stage of the process. Further communications will be made in due time.… CMA CGM attaches strong importance to its quality of service and expects to enhance it by drawing upon the best practices of each group.”

    Richard Knee is a freelance journalist in San Francisco. He writes extensively about the freight sector.

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  • Racing Extinction: A Wake-Up Call

    Photo Courtesy of the Oceanic Preservation Society
    By Melina Paris, Contributing Writer

    Among the events that comprised the VisionLA ’15 Climate Action Arts Festival was the Dec. 2 screening of Racing Extinction, at Off the Vine in San Pedro. The festival spanned Los Angeles and paralleled the Paris summit on climate.

    The documentary is a collaboration by Academy Award­-winning documentary filmmaker Louie Psihoyos and several scientists, environmentalists, artists and engineers. It examines how humans are legally and illegally contributing to the extinction of wild animal life. And its theme fit perfectly with a festival that amounts to a response from local artists to global environmental crises.

    The multidisciplinary VisionLA ’15 Climate Action Arts Festival runs concurrently with the Paris climate talks advocating for a strong international climate treaty and sustainable change.

    Racing Extinction catches you with its cinematography, which draws from the work of world-renowned photojournalists connected to National Geographic such as Shawn Heinrichs, Paul Hilton and Joel Sartore.

    Leilani Münter, a biology graduate turned professional race car driver and environmental activist, drives the James Bond­-like mobile projection vehicle.

    The Tesla Model S is outfitted with a 15,000 lumen robotic video projection system that deploys out of the back window, a FLIR camera that raises through the hood (a.k.a. “frunk”), a disappearing license plate, and an electro-luminescent paint job by Darkside Scientific.

    The film weaves together compelling narratives and powerful imagery to assert that wildlife trade is second only to the drug market in the world and that carbon emissions are a danger hidden plain sight making the world’s ocean inhospitable to the earth’s marine life.

    At one point, the film crew was on an Indonesian island while fishermen were hunting endangered manta rays. Fishermen have reverted to hunting these creatures because they are running out of sharks to kill to make shark fin soup, a delicacy. As a result, the fishermen end up sacrificing two species and crippling an eco­system— for soup!

    “Just about everything endangered in the world is for sale in China,” said Psihoyos in the film.

    Still the crew had what appeared to be cameras hanging from their necks, while they were actually filming video within a warehouse of the endless rows of dismembered shark and manta ray fins from hosts that were left for dead.

    Manta rays have one pup every couple of years, one of the environmentalists on the crew said. The number of fins he saw before him in that warehouse represented an entire generation of manta rays wiped out.

    The film also looks at the effects of climate change. There are many backroom conversations and provocative visuals. That’s the point: it’s meant to shake you up.

    It was noted later in the film that the western world has already done an incredible job of polluting and wiping out species. And did it with fewer people. Now other countries are doing the same, with significantly increased population and it is pushing animal life to the brink of extinction.

    Due to pollution from carbon emissions and overfishing, the ocean is becoming acidic — a condition that will make creatures in the ocean simply dissolve. Photojournalists in the film remarked that they are documenting a time and place that in the future, may not be here in the future.

    At another point in the film, an artist who specializes in projection filming protested a restaurant in Japan for offering whale meat on the menu. He projected images of whales in their environment, living and swimming with their young, alive, on the wall in front of this restaurant.

    Ten days later the restaurant closed down.

    “We are the last generation to save ourselves,” Psihoyos said. “There is no one else we can count on, only us,” Racing Extinction illuminates the devastation for both wildlife and humans if we don’t drastically change our practices. It also shows us how one person can actually make a difference.

    At Off the Vine, the film’s impact was almost immediate. “We had a good discussion afterwards,” duSoleil said. “That was the point, in regards to one thing we can each do at a grassroots level to involve others and to have broader influence at the government level.”

    Details: www.racingextinction.com



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  • So, You Want to Write a Bad Yelp Review?

    By Gina Ruccione, Cuisine and Restaurant Writer

    I am a cuisine and restaurant writer. That is my job and I take it seriously. But with the endless holiday parties and pop-up dinners awaiting, I thought I would give my waistline a break and do a little bit of light reading.

    So, I did the unthinkable. I started scrolling through Yelp reviews to see what others think of some of my favorite restaurants around town.

    Anyone who has ever been within earshot and lucky enough to catch one of my famous Yelp rants knows that I’m not very fond of Yelp reviews. I rarely find them helpful. I might look at the overall rating, but I never read through reviews.

    I am gluttonous at times (it comes with the job title) but I’m hardly a glutton for punishment. So, why on Earth would I subject myself to the most brutal form of self-flagellation and read through hours of some of the worst reviews of all time? I really don’t know.

    It was shocking to read the asinine comments from some patrons. Sure, some were benign, but many were rather upsetting. Not only were most of the complaints completely unfounded, some were even aggressive. After enduring what seemed to be an endless barrage of nonsense, my honest conclusion is that we are dealing with a serious ignorance epidemic.

    The purpose of this article is to enlighten some of the self–proclaimed food critics out there who feel compelled to impart their opinions on others. I will gladly read your reviews and then do some critiquing of my own.

    So, you want to write a negative restaurant Yelp review? Consider that you eat at a restaurant– — and I’m not talking about some chain restaurant, but one where the chef is trying to express himself in a creative way—–perhaps you should be a bit more open-

    minded. They are called the culinary arts for a reason.

    You are not entitled to walk into a steakhouse and complain that there are no vegan

    options, just as I wouldn’t walk into a vegan restaurant and go off because I couldn’t order a filet mignon. You are simply not in a position to complain about something like

    that. Period.

    Food cold? Absolutely horrible service? A cockroach in your salad? OK, fine. Maybe then I give you permission to hammer away. But just because you don’t like cilantro in a

    dish doesn’t mean the restaurant is bad. That is the equivalent of walking into a museum, seeing a painting you don’t like and then giving the museum a shit rating. Granted, tastes and preferences vary from person to person, but an eating establishment never warrants a bad review because you seem to think Maldon salt is synonymous with “big ass chunks of salt.”

    Karl Marx said, “Ignorance is bliss,” but let me tell you — not when you’re writing a review. At that point you are a nightmare to chefs and just about anyone who has ever worked in the food service industry.

    At the very least, a critic comes from a place of knowledge. What allows me to critique food is what I know about food. And I don’t claim to know everything. The day I stop learning is the day that I stop asking questions — and that day will never come.

    I don’t critique beer, because I don’t know enough about it. Have I had beer that I didn’t enjoy? Yes, but I didn’t write off the beverage all together. I realized I had ordered incorrectly– due to my lack of knowledge. And I came away knowing I don’t particular like chocolate stout. I won’t order it again, but I certainly won’t gripe about it.

    So, if you wish to share your opinion with others please consider your audience and your purpose. Who are you trying to connect with? Is your purpose to inform? Or, maybe you are trying to entertain? But if you just want to be a dick and stand on a soapbox spewing nothings, you’re not helping anyone. Come from a place of humility and knowledge and you’re likely to be better received — especially from those serving your food.

    And, with that, I say, “Happy Holidays”— but more importantly play nice on Yelp.

    Gina Ruccione has traveled all over Europe and Asia and has lived in almost every nook of Los Angeles County. You can visit her website at www.foodfashionfoolishfornication.com.

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  • Alpine Village Hosts Second Annual Christmas Faire

    By Lyn Jensen, Reporter

    Warm up with some holiday beer or Gluhwein (German mulled wine) or shop for German-flavored gifts during the Second Annual Christmas Faire, from 4 to 8 p.m. Saturday and Sundays through Dec. 20, at the Alpine Village.

    Inspired by the famous Nuremberg Christkindlsmarkt, holiday shopping here offers a distinct German feel. Along with the village’s house­made batch of Gluhwein and holiday beer at the Alpine Restaurant, shoppers may partake of hard­to­find European sweets and a selection of gift possibilities from craft vendors and Alpine Village’s resident shops and market.

    Tucked away along the 110 freeway just outside Carson city limits, Alpine Village was established in 1968 as a Bavarian­ flavored destination for shopping, dining and entertainment. Its Alpine Market and Alpine Restaurant have long provided the area with a selection of German and European food.

    Alpine Village has for many years hosted an Oktoberfest, touted as the largest and longest-running in the Los Angeles area. Now management hopes to make its Christmas Faire an equally popular annual event.

    About 800 to 1,000 people are expected at the Christmas Faire each weekend, according to marketing coordinator Haley Derryberry.

    She suggests holiday shoppers may be particularly interested in, “plenty of baked goods made fresh in our bakery, deli meats — our specialty — and many of our craft vendors sell things like jewelry, pottery and … toys.”

    Music is part of the fair, too.

    “We’re working to involve as many community groups in our program as we can and we’re excited to involve the Narbonne High Key Club and other performing groups from local schools and churches,” General Manager Otto Radtke explained.

    Christmas Faire is free but it also offers inexpensive children’s activities. For a $5 ticket, children younger than twelve may get a photo with Santa Claus, a “Snow Zone” play area where ten tons of fresh snow are trucked in every day, a holiday craft corner and a train ride around the Village.

    Derryberry points out that, even without buying the children’s ticket, anybody may get their picture taken with Santa for $2.

    Cost: Free and free parking
    Details: (310) 327­4384; www.AlpineVillageCenter.com
    Venue: Alpine Village, 833 Torrance Blvd., Torrance

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  • COP 21 Paris:

    Beyond the Climate Summit

    By Paul Rosenberg, Senior Editor

    During the 20 years since the first United Nations Climate Change Conference, known as Conference of Parties or COP, emissions have risen more than 60 percent.

    But such dismal failure doesn’t appear to be motivating attendees at the ongoing COP21 meeting in Paris to reach effective agreement on standards that would prevent global temperatures rising by more than 2 degrees Celsius by 2100. In response to the lack of ambition, UN Secretary-Gen. Ban Ki Moon has expressed support for an even lower target—a rise of 1.5 degrees Celsius—being pushed by countries most at risk in the global south. Meanwhile, voluntary national pledges, widely touted in advance, would allow for up to 5 C.

    “It would be sad, and I dare say, even catastrophic, were particular interests to prevail over the common good,” said Pope Francis before COP21 began on Nov. 30.

    But that’s exactly what all signs indicate, which is why climate activists only see it as one stage in a much larger struggle—though some say an inadequate deal should be rejected outright.

    “Governments come to the table at summits like this with what they consider to be politically possible,” author and activist Naomi Klein recently said on the radio program Democracy Now! “Social movements exist to change what is politically possible….We move the bar so the next time they come to the table, what is politically possible is aligned with what is physically necessary. Because right now, what is considered politically possible is deeply out of alignment with what is physically necessary.”

    Indeed, the drift of policy has been in the wrong direction. The current round of negotiations originally intended to produce a binding agreement that would force climate polluters to make deep cuts in greenhouse emissions, and would obligate rich countries to provide resources for poor ones to deal with the damage already caused. The guiding operative principle, “common but differentiated responsibility,” meant that those who have put the most greenhouse gases into the atmosphere should carry the main burdens of reductions and payments to mitigate damages.

    But at the end of COP20 in Lima l, a bilateral deal between China and the United States undermined that principle with additional obfuscatory language: “and respective capabilities, in light of different national circumstances.” The language was then injected into the COP20 call for action. The voluntary emission pledges offered in advance of Paris fall far short of what’s needed. Climate activists around the world have been pushing for much stronger action.

    Instead, on the day before the conference began the French government rescinded the permission it had granted for a protest rally that was expected to draw 200,000 people–and placed 24 climate activists under house arrest for the duration of COP21. The cancellation was announced in the wake of the terrorist attacks in Paris on Nov.13, but after the conference began, the demonstration ban was extended past the end of the conference—a full month after the attacks.

    Activists responded to the suppression on Nov. 29 by installing thousands of pairs of shoes—symbolic of their desire to march—in front of the Place de la République, which is just a few blocks away from the Bataclan theater, a primary target of the terrorist attacks. Among the shoes was a pair donated by Pope Francis and other religious leaders as well.


    As demonstrations went on worldwide— 2,200 events in 150 countries, coordinated in part by 350.org—tens of thousands of people formed a human chain, stretching for blocks through downtown Paris. Afterward, thousands of people defied the protest ban and began marching through the streets, where they were met by hundreds of riot police, using tear gas, sound bombs and pepper spray. More than 200 protesters were arrested.

    Earlier, on Black Friday, Nov. 27, the British-based Brandalism project hijacked 600 outdoor advertising spaces, filling them with so-called “subvertisements” by 80 artists from 19 countries.

    “We’re sorry we got caught,” blares a bus-stop display ad, mocking Volkswagen’s lead role in falsifying diesel emissions on some of its cars. “Now that we’ve been caught, we’re trying to make you think we care about the environment…. But we’re not the only ones.”

    “Tackling climate change?” the Air France subvertisement asks itself. “Of course not, we’re an airline.”

    Bill Posters from Brandalism explained the campaign in a press release. “Following the tragic events on 13th November in Paris, the government has chosen to ban the big civil society mobilisations—but big business events can continue,” he said. “The multinationals responsible for climate change can keep greenwashing their destructive business models, but the communities directly impacted by them are silenced. It’s now more important than ever to call out their lies and speak truth to power.”

    Added Joe Elan, also of Brandalism: “By sponsoring the climate talks, major polluters such as Air France and GDF-Suez-Engie can promote themselves as part of the solution—when actually they are part of the problem,”

    Along similar lines, two French organizations joined forces to produce a report, “Can Transnational Companies Save The Climate?” It examined the practices of 10 of the 40 corporate sponsors of COP21, exposing a dismal record.

    Companies were rated on three criteria. Four companies met the standard for data transparency, while one met the standard for emissions in line with European Union objectives. But the report stated that when the ratings took into account the full impact of all the businesses that constitute each company’s complete value chain, “none of these companies…seem capable of reducing its global carbon footprint in line with EU objectives.”

    The rating system was not an idle exercise. According to the report, the shortfall in voluntary commitments needed to meet the emission targets means “governments and international institutions are increasingly turning to the private sector, particularly big transnational corporations, in an attempt to find the solutions and investments required to evolve towards low-carbon societies and economies,” the report explained. “As host to the COP21, the French government has chosen to give corporations a special role, making forty of them the official sponsors of the event and giving them a large place in the ‘Solutions Agenda’ (or Lima-Paris Action Agenda) which is to be appended to the international draft agreement.” The approach has been highly criticized by civil society organizations—with good reason, according to the report’s results.

    But activists aren’t limited to criticism regarding the business sector. The past few years have seen the wildfire growth of the carbon divestment movement, which reached an historic milestone on Dec. 2.

    “More than 500 institutions representing over $3.4 trillion in assets have made some form of divestment commitment,” 350.org stated in a press release.

    Kevin De León, president pro tempore of the California State Senate, was one of the speakers at the press conference that 350.org hosted. De León authored legislation, signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown, promoting disinvestment by two of the world’s largest pension funds, CalPERS and CalSTRS, which together represent almost $500 billion in assets—and which lost $5 billion this past year in its oil and gas portfolio.

    More focused actions of this kind—holding more and more people responsible for the tight connections between carbon and its costs— are part of the cutting edge of climate activism. Closely related is a new focus on the connection between carbon emissions and economic inequality, which has been the subject of two recent reports.

    A report from Oxfam released on Dec. 2 found that the world’s richest 10 percent produce half the global carbon emissions, while the world’s poorest 50 percent produce just 10 percent of emissions.

    “Climate change is inextricably linked to economic inequality: it is a crisis that is driven by the greenhouse gas emissions of the ‘haves’ that hits the ‘have-nots’ the hardest,” Oxfam said on its website.

    The results were strikingly similar to those reported one month earlier in paper by Thomas Piketty and Lucas Chancel of the Paris School of Economics. Their figures showed that the top 10 percent of emitters contributed 45 percent of emissions, while the bottom 50 percent contributed 13 percent of emissions. Divisions between the highest and lowest one percent are even more extreme. The top 1 percent richest Americans, Luxemburgers, Singaporeans, and Saudi Arabians have carbon emission 2,000 times that of the lowest income groups of Honduras, Mozambique, Rwanda and Malawi.

    The Piketty-Chancel study suggested three different strategies to increase global climate adaptation funding, using individual carbon dioxide equivalent emissions as the basis for contributions. The first, would tax all emitters above the 50 percent threshold in proportion to how much they exceed the threshold. The second, would use the same formula, but with a top 10 percent threshold. The third strategy would use a top 1 percent threshold. All three strategies represent a significant departure from earlier ideas, which have gotten bogged down in various dead-end disputes.

    There’s bound to be opposition to these ideas as well, but they greatly clarify issues of responsibility, making it harder and harder for “particular interests to prevail over the common good,” as Pope Francis put it.

    Along those same lines, Oxfam’s report noted that those blocking progress represent a tiny minority:

    “Between the Copenhagen and Paris climate conferences, the number of billionaires on the Forbes list with interests in fossil fuel activities has risen from 54 in 2010 to 88 in 2015, while the size of their combined personal fortunes has expanded by around 50% from over $200bn to more than $300bn.”

    Similarly, a September 2015 report by the Institute for Policy Studies, “Money to Burn,” gave a detailed analysis of the ways fossil fuel CEOs are rewarded for sticking with the status quo rather than transitioning to clean energy sources. These include common corporate practices, such as stock-based CEO compensation that encourages a focus on driving up share prices in the short term, regardless long-term costs— including those for the environment.

    But there are also some industry-specific dysfunctions. For example, IPS noted:

    “All 13 oil producers on our list of 30 major U.S. fossil-fuel corporations reward executives for expanding carbon reserves. The report also found that all of the top oil producers link annual bonus payments to expansion of carbon reserves.”

    It’s now well understood that most oil reserves will have to be left in the ground. So these CEOs are being rewarded for wasteful, if not destructive behavior.

    The coal industry is already collapsing, but IPS noted that the “top 10 publicly held U.S. coal companies have also been increasing their cash-based executive pay as their share prices have been plummeting. When paychecks grow even as businesses sink, executives have little incentive to shift to a new energy future.”

    In short, on an ever-growing multitude of fronts the dividing line Pope Francis referred to between particular interests and the common good is growing clearer and clearer. The particular interests still hold the most power, but things are shifting rapidly.

    “This event is not the game; it is the scoreboard,” said 350.org founder Bill McKibben, about the Paris climate summit in an interview with Democracy Now! “Before Copenhagen, there was no climate movement, so there was no pressure on anyone there. Barack Obama could come home from Copenhagen with no agreement, Hillary Clinton, no agreement, and pay no price. But that’s no longer true for them or almost anybody else. So, we’ll get something out of here, but it won’t be enough. We’ll probably be on a path that heats up about 3.5 degrees Celsius instead of five degrees.”

    In itself, that’s terrible news. It would mean “an uninhabitable world,” McKibben said. But that’s not the end of it, by any means. “What it tells us is what the score is now and how much work more we have to do.”



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  • Trump: When Fascism Comes to America

    By James Preston Allen, Publisher

    Donald Trump’s meteoric rise in the polls for the Republican nomination for the presidency is no wonder.

    His rhetoric in recent months—whether it was his connecting Mexican immigrants to crime or his comments on Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), saying he is not a hero “because he was captured” and “I like people who weren’t captured”—has been tapping our nation’s darkest, deepest and most xenophobic veins.

    Trump’s message and his refusal to apologize when he’s called out on his racism goes along with the narrative that supposes the United States is weak, and if elected president, he’d “make America great again.” In this context filled with fear and anxiety following unimaginable acts of terror, his blustery, bullying rhetoric is excused. And, the corporate media is to blame for it.

    Trump is a ratings magnet. The corporate media fawns over him because every time they give him airtime their ratings rise.

    It took Trump’s call for a ban on all Muslims traveling to the United States (even if they are already U.S. citizens) in the wake of the San Bernardino mass shooting for the so-called “liberal media” to call him a fascist.

    What took them so long?

    The Philadelphia Daily News recently ran a cover picture of Trump with his arm raised in a gesture similar to a Nazi salute with the intentional inference made clear with the bold headline: The New Furor.

    Even his own party and Republican political strategists are finally calling this what it is. Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan, no liberal by any stretch, said, “The notion of banning all members of one religion from the country is not what this party stands for…. More importantly, it’s not what this country stands for.”

    What took him so long?

    Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) recently rebuked Trump on CNN’s New Day saying, “You know how you make America great again? Tell Donald Trump to go to hell!”

    The South Carolina senator went on to call Trump a race-baiting, xenophobic, religious bigot. “He doesn’t represent my party,” Graham said. “He doesn’t represent the values that the men and women who wear the uniform are fighting for…. He’s the ISIL man of the year.”

    Clearly, The Donald doesn’t represent the banner the Grand Old Party is flying, yet he is making them all look worse because of it. However, he does represent a growing sentiment in this country that is driven by fear and anxiety of the “other”—whomever the other may be this month.

    It is a sentiment that echoes in nearly every part of this nation that demonizes the weakest or the most vulnerable. It is also one that has historic precedent in this nation. We can only wonder who the next target will be?

    In the end, Trump jeopardizes the core values of the American creed of freedom, liberty and justice codified in our Constitution with his call to ban all Muslim travel to the United States.

    He is not just playing a reality TV personality running for president. He and those who support him are a real threat to the very foundation of our republic and democracy.

    Furthermore, his rhetoric is fanning the flames of ISIS and other terrorist groups, who would like nothing more than to cast the current conflict as a defense against a new Christian Crusade with ISIS as the righteous defenders of Mohammed.

    They are not. Nor are all of the millions of Muslims worldwide supporting this errant group of terrorists.

    Casting all Muslims as potential terrorists would be like calling all Christians members of the Ku Klux Klan or the Westboro Baptist Church. Clearly, Trump’s egotistical rantings show that he has lost his mind, lost his conscience (if he ever had one) and he will soon lose the respect of everyone in the Republican party with any brains. What seems to be gaining momentum is the growing uncivil discourse that is on the brink of hysterical irrationality.

    America has been here before. There is a quote (most often misattributed to the American author Sinclair Lewis, 1885-1951) that states: “When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.”

    Trump has already wrapped himself in the flag. Now he’s playing with religion. What else can you call it?

    Disclaimer­—Nothing in this editorial or the pages of this newspaper should be taken as the official position of the Central San Pedro Neighborhood council to which I was elected President in 2014, nor does it reflect the opinions of any of its board members. The opinions expressed here are solely mine.

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  • Port Medical Owners Indicted for Fraud

    By Terelle Jerricks, Managing Editor

    Two members of ILWU, Local 13, were arrested on federal fraud charges Dec. 7. The arrests followed a Nov. 18 indictment alleging they caused two Port Medical clinics to bill the union’s health care plan for chiropractic services that either were not provided or were not medically necessary.

    Sergio Amador, 49, of Downey, and David Gomez, 52, of San Pedro, were arrested without incident by federal authorities.

    For the past three years, local health care providers, independent contractors such as chiropractors, massage therapists and acupuncturists, saw their reimbursement rates slow to a trickle.

    This was due primarily to changes to the ILWU-PMA Benefits plan in 2009 in which a third-party administrator was assigned to monitor all claims on the ILWU-PMA benefits plan.

    With the indictments and arrest of Armador and Gomez, there’s now an explanation for why the third-party administrators were flagging these claims.

    The ILWU-PMA benefits plan covers 100 percent of all chiropractic charges with no out- of-pocket costs to the benefits plan member. The benefits plan includes up to 40 visits related to any particular diagnosis and up to 18 related symptoms in the absence of a diagnosis.

    As a result, a code of conduct was developed to address specific areas of concern. The chiropractic portion of the benefits plan prohibits offering any incentive, including rebates, free or discounted treatments or gifts of any type to plan members for recruiting them as patients.

    The benefits plan also requires that all treatments be medically necessary and only address the specific condition that was diagnosed and documented in the patient’s history.

    Armador and Gomez were charged with breaking just about all of these rules and pocketing the money.

    Investigators painstaking connected how Amador and Gomez set up and controlled Port Medical, information that was largely hidden by a corporate veil.

    According to the grand jury indictment, Amador and Gomez incorporated Port Medical and opened bank accounts for three related companies, including: DCS, Chosen and Ramport to receive funds from Port Medical. Those monies were then used to pay themselves and pay incentives to and on behalf of plan members. In return, those members would receive medical and chiropractic services at Port Medical and encourage other plan members to do the same.

    The indictment alleges that the longshore workers gave benefit plan members incentives. These included sports teams sponsorships, cash payments, free massages and facials, and other gifts and services in return for those benefit plan members receiving medical and chiropractic services from Port Medical.

    The pair pleaded not guilty to the charges and was freed on bond. They were ordered to stand trial, Feb. 2, 2016.

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  • Printing Museum Goes To Dickens

    By Lyn Jensen, Reporter

    Experience Victorian England as Charles Dickens portrayed it, Dec. 12 and 13 at the Printing Museum in Carson.

    You’ll be able to celebrate the holidays with Dickens and some of his most unforgettable characters as part of the museum’s very popular Dickens Holiday Celebration. Victorian costume is encouraged.

    “We turn out the florescent lights and bring in 19th-century lampposts,” said Phil Soinski, the museum’s manager, who started the event seven or eight years ago. “People get to use Victorian presses to make unique cards and gift tags,” using Victorian materials, he added. Meet various Dickens characters as the museum’s gallery is transformed into Fezziwig’s Warehouse from A Christmas Carol, with special presentations, tours, carolers and music. Fagen of Oliver Twist may pick your pocket, or Miss Havisham of Great Expectations may come around wearing her tattered wedding dress and complaining about being stood up at the altar.Three times each day Dickens will entertain guests in the museum’s Heritage Theater. He’ll retell his most famous story, A Christmas Carol, during which he’ll play Scrooge. Be prepared to get in touch with your inner actor, because Dickens will be asking audience members to play several characters.

    Soinski said that after the performance guests often retire to the tea garden for lunch. Captain Jack will play his 1895 concert roller organ, cranking out carols on scrolls that actually date from Dickens’ time.

    “We didn’t even ask people to do it, but people started coming in costume,” Soinski said, adding that the costumes tend to be authentic, not so much steampunk. Men, in particular, can get a Victorian look simply by putting on an ascot vest, and top hat.

    Make reservations early, as a sellout is expected. Tickets are $20 each. (There are special prices for groups and the museum’s friends and donors.) You may purchase your tickets on the museum’s website or by calling (310) 515-7166.
    Hours both days are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.  An“interactive” performance of “A Christmas Carol” takes place at 11 a.m., and 1 and 3 p.m.

    Venue: Print Museum, 315  W. Torrance Blvd., Carson

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  • Artful Living at a Slumlord Price

    By Zamná Ávila, Assistant Editor and Terelle Jerricks, Managing Editor

    Before affordable housing was a visible public policy concern, before the housing market crashed in 2007 and before the creation of the San Pedro Arts District, local artists and property owners were discussing how to support and sustain the budding arts scene that was emerging in the community.

    Several condominium developments marketed as artist lofts were built, but a coherent policy for sustaining the arts community with cheap live-work space was never created.

    A couple of months ago, local artist Monte Thrasher told Random Lengths News about the living conditions in the arts colony known as The Pound, a place marketed to artists as live-work spaces at dirt cheap rents.

    The most recent post ad reads:

    “The Pound is an artist only community in San Pedro. We have a room and studio space available for $350. We have two kitchens and two baths which are shared by all. Washer, dryer and utilities included. San Pedro has a exciting artist community and a monthly art walk downtown. A farmers market every Friday and we have a park and nature walk right out our front door. We have 12 artists working in a wide variety of disciplines. Painters, filmmakers, writers and crafters all enjoying a creative lifestyle together. First and last to move in and SEND PICS OF YOUR WORK with your reply. Sorry musicians really not set up for soundproofing. Available now.”

    But soundproofing seems to be the least of the building’s issues.

    Thrasher accuses the building’s management of abusing tenants’ rights through practices such as illegal evictions, fire and zoning code violations.

    “The landlord has apparently abandoned the place,” Thrasher said. “There is no maintenance at all and the place is just falling apart.”

    The property is zoned for industrial use only. In fact, a 1956 certificate of occupancy provided to Random Lengths News shows the building was once approved for the storage of flammable liquids and hazardous materials.

    “Which hazardous waste?” asked Thrasher, rhetorically. “I don’t know. But we certainly weren’t warned about that.”

    While there have been some complaints about the property in the past, the complaints have been closed or are under investigation.

    California requires that real estate transactions of any kind be in writing. However, The Pound’s manager, Joel Stearns, admitted, tenant agreements at the complex are handled with an exchange of money and a handshake..

    “The studios are rented…as art studios,” Stearns said, declining to admit that people live in those studios.

    Artists are generally drawn to raw spaces—spaces in which amenities aren’t absolutely perfect and can be modified or converted to fit their needs.

    More importantly, these are spaces that artists could modify themselves. A sculptor would have different needs than a graphic designer, who in turn would have different needs than another kind of artist. Thrasher contends that the tenants were not allowed fix and improve the spaces.

    Thrasher admittedly has had tenant-landlord issues at other places he’s resided, where he was able extend his tenancy without paying rent, as he now is doing.

    Building manager Joel Stearns believes Thrasher is trying to extort money from the building owner.

    “He has no job,” Stearns, 68, said. “He can’t hold a job. He’s medicated. He’s clinically depressed…from what he’s told me and other people….He’s been trouble from about six months after he moved here.”

    There are a lot of rules and regulations governing art colonies, noted Walter Beaumont, former Community Redevelopment Agency representative for the San Pedro Arts, Culture and Entertainment District. He cited the new development that just opened on Pacific Avenue and 4th Street in San Pedro, and two others in Long Beach and Burbank.

    “Government is really not good at building art colonies,” Beaumont said. “Enlightened private development is significantly better.”

    Beaumont cited Robin Hinchliffe’s artist lofts on 7th and 5th streets as an example.

    Robin and Doug Hinchliffe were among the early core anchors of the San Pedro arts district, developing spaces for the purpose of curating cutting-edge art shows while providing live-work spaces for artists.

    Artists working in large media formats, such as painters and sculptors, need at least 1,500 square feet to work and store projects. For years, the Hinchliffes provided a kind of rent control for good tenants, keeping their rental rates competitive, if not cheaper than elsewhere in Los Angeles County for similarly sized spaces.

    TransVagrant at Warschaw Gallery curator Ron Linden identifies Marylyn and Chuck Klaus, who donated the building housing the Marylyn and Chuck Klaus Center for the Arts, and Linda Jackson, who owns wine lounge, Jackson’s Place, as enlightened property owners. Jackson also owns several of the adjoining spaces next to the lounge.

    Another important point about the Hinchliffe’s properties is that they are up to code and legal. It’s not clear the same can be said of The Pound.

    Stearns said that though The Pound is owned by Emmett Clark, the person leasing the property as an artist community is a Florida man, Mike Turner, with whom Stearn said he only communicates through social media.

    It is unclear if there is plan to salvage the situation at The Pound.

    Thrasher said that he believes he still has a shot at making The Pound an artists’ haven by applying to the courts and placing a lien on the property. He believes that suing the landlord would give him a vested interest in his financial state.

    “We don’t want him to sell off all of his stuff before we can get it,” Thrasher said. “If we place a lien on it, our hope is to compel the guy, get maybe a court settlement or an agreement with the court that will allow this place to survive, allow us to bring it up to code and turn it into a real, long-term artist establishment.”

    But the reality may be quite different, Stearns said.

    “The landlord, if he has to deal with this, he’ll just kick everybody out and rent it to businesses,” Stearns said. “The artist community has done this over and over and over again. They move into areas that no one else wants to live. They build the area up and all of a sudden it becomes more popular, other business want to move in. I mean, look at downtown San Pedro. The artists move in and then the city goes and says, ‘OK, it’s legal to live there’ or ‘it’s not.’ And, if the city comes in, they don’t ask people to bring it up to code, they just kick you out. I’ve seen it happen.”


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  • Flash In The Pan:

    The Stale Toast Antidote

    By Ari LeVaux, Guest Columnist
    With Thanksgiving in the rearview mirror, and more holiday fare ahead, one question looms above all others: “what to do with all of the hard, crusty bread that will now accumulate since there is no longer a big cavity in some dead turkey to pack it into?”

    Fortunately, the French have the answer in the form of a very old dish called pain perdu. References to this dish appear in Apicius, an ancient Roman cookbook. However, you may have heard of this dish under the name, “French toast,” a term that isn’t used in France any more than “American Football” is used here. The French name, which means “lost bread,” hints at the utility of this dish as a way to recover bread that would otherwise be too far gone to eat. As the French and Romans were well aware, the most bulletproof chunks of expired bread, providing they aren’t moldy or rotten, can be brought back to life with a soak in a mixture of eggs and milk. When the soaked bread pieces are then panfried, the age and previous condition of the bread will be quickly forgotten.

    As a morning meal, French toast is often dismissed as little more than a system to deliver maple syrup and berries into your mouth. But savory versions can be made as well, as can sweet and savory combinations. There is no reason why, for example, sweet French toast can’t be cooked in bacon grease and served with bacon and maple syrup. But I prefer a fully savory path, greased with bacon and finished with cheese and hot sauce or pickled peppers.

    What makes these French toast variations a little more fun, in a naughty way, is that basically any permutation of French toast and bacon would get it banned from any conceivable diet plan. Sugar, fat, processed carbohydrates, and the ultimate processed meat, bacon, are all bogeyman foods these days. French toast with bacon is not Paleo, lowcarb, Atkins, South Beach, vegetarian or vegan, and it definitely isn’t kosher.

    Ironically, this antidiet dish of bacon’d French toast has been something of a health tonic to my family. When my son’s doctor was concerned he wasn’t gaining weight fast enough, I put him on a daily regimen of French toast with bacon, maple syrup, berry jam and whipped cream. To the surprise of pretty much nobody, he began gaining weight on the French toast diet.

    Another issue we faced, familiar to many parents, was our chhildren’s reluctance to eat anything green. I discovered that I could slip significant amounts of parsley, seaweed, broccoli, and even kale into the French toast pan, and it would disappear along with the egged bread and bacon.

    These additions can take French toast firmly out of the realm of breakfast fare and make it appropriate for any meal of the day. For nonbreakfast eaters like myself who nonetheless appreciate the traditional breakfast arts, savory French toast is a true game changer.

    I shared a cabin recently with two other hunters, and none of us had time for breakfastor a big ole greasy wad in our bellies as we charged up the mountain. Because make no mistake, were we to have made time for breakfast, it would have been big and it would have been greasy.

    But by evening, with the hunting done for the day and the fire stoked, stale bread became a

    delivery system for protein and veggierich awesomeness that our bodies recognized would help

    them recover from a rough day. With the wind howling outside the cabin, this was extreme

    comfort food that went equally well with coffee or wine.

    The AntiDiet Stale Toast Antidote

    For four slices of a goodsized loaf of bread, or the equivalent in baguette medallions, or of whatever shape the bread crumbles into, use two eggs and a quarter cup of milk, beaten together. Skip the cinnamon and vanilla and other sweetthemed flavorings.Very hard bread needs to be soaked at least an hour, preferably overnight, in the egg mixture, while fresh bread requires only a few minutes. There is nothing wrong with keeping some crusty bread soaking in egg in the fridge, ready at a moment’s notice.

    When the bread is ready, prepare the pan for cooking. Which is to say, cook bacon in the pan. When the bacon is about halfdone, add any vegetables that take a bit longer to cook, like kale or

    broccoli. When they are near done, push the bacon and green things to the side of the pan, add oil or butter if the bacon isn’t very fatty, and add the eggsoaked bread to the pan, along with some chopped garlic. Cook slowly on low heat.

    After achieving a brown on all sides, add the fastercooking greens like parsley or nori. I used some frozen zucchini one time that had a lot of water in it, which delayed completion as I had to wait for the water to cook off, but it wasn’t a problemas long as the heat is low and the pan doesn’t dry out and nothing burns, the longer it cooks the better. When it’s nearly done cooking, add some cheese if desired. Little chunks of brie are a decadent way to stay on the French theme. But since this dish breaks ranks with virtually every other diet and theme, why keep it French? Slices of cheddar work beautifully, as do shredded Italian hard cheeses.

    And since nothing is sacred anymore, I should mention that savory French toast can also be

    prepared without bacon.

    Season with salt and pepper. Serve with something spicy, and a dollop of mayo, perhaps, with your choice of coffee or wine.

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