Chu Cheng Mei says she would be “thrilled” to see the city elect its first Chinese-American mayor. But she won’t be turning up at the voting booths come Tuesday because, as she explains, she “doesn’t understand the system.”
This is the city’s first competitive mayoral election to use ranked-choice voting. Adopted in 2004, ranked-choice voting avoids costly run-off elections by asking voters to mark their top three picks in order of preference. In cases where no single candidate secures over 50 percent of the first-place votes, the candidate with the fewest first-place votes is eliminated, distributing the second-place choices to the remaining candidates.
The problem is that for many voters, particularly Chinese Americans—who represent 20 percent of the electorate and are the largest single ethnic group in the city—there is tremendous confusion.
A recent poll by the Chinese-language newspaper Sing Tao Daily found that one-third of Chinese-American voters didn’t know ranked-choice voting would be used in the election, and those who did didn’t understand it.
There is growing worry among those who are politically active in the community that this confusion could cost Chinese Americans the first elected Chinese-American mayor in the city’s history.
“Voters’ second choices are going to be a key issue in the election,” said Steven Chiu, a longtime political analyst and columnist with World Journal, one of the country’s largest Chinese-language newspapers.
Six of the 16 mayoral candidates are Asian-American, five of them from the Chinese community, including interim Mayor Ed Lee.
Chinese-American candidates have a high chance of securing the mayoral seat, Chiu says, if the city’s registered Chinese voters actually fill out their ballots.
But confusion surrounding the system could lead some voters to choose only one candidate. That means if their top pick is eliminated, they won’t get a vote in an instant run-off.
Chiu says there’s even a chance a number of them may choose to sit out the election. Overall turnout in previous elections stands at around 50 percent, according to election officials.
The Martin family lives 10 minutes from downtown Los Angeles, in a neat yellow house in a city called Maywood.
Starting a few blocks from their home, nearly 2,000 factories churn out Southern California’s hot dogs, pesticides, patio furniture and other products. Trucks rumble off the I-710 freeway into sprawling freight rail yards. Odors of rotting animal carcasses waft through the family’s windows on hot summer nights.
The Martins also have endured years of illness.
From the time Anaiz Martin was born until she was a toddler, her father would carry her in his arms, his big mustache tickling her baby cheeks. This simple embrace carried a haunting consequence. By age 3, Anaiz weighed just 19 pounds and could barely raise her head. Her parents said they were told by doctors that Salvador Martin’s mustache probably held sickening levels of lead from his plating factory job.
The heavy metal attacked her neurological system, permanently robbing her of critical learning skills.
Two decades later, her family’s woes continue. Anaiz, now 21, her mother and siblings – Adilene, 22, and Sal Jr., 18 – have suffered irritable bowel syndrome, an ovarian cyst, skin rashes, chronic nausea, diarrhea, asthma and depression.
Their mother, Josefina, frets constantly about what she thinks are likely causes: the air they breathe, the ground beneath their home and, most of all, the gunky black, brown or yellow water that has intermittently run from their faucets for years.
“Sometimes I think, ‘Oh my God, I can’t take it anymore,’ ” Josefina, 45, said during an interview in the summer of 2010. “I try to keep myself up and going, but I am really upset all the time. I just want to know what’s going on with my family and all of this contamination.”
Among many pleasures of childhood is the belief that the big, bad, complicated world is being run by grownups who know what they are doing. Growing up in Iran, I believed particularly in professional capability among the ranks of policemen, military officers and ayatollahs.
Having just turned 63, many of the grownups who now run this sorry world of ours are younger than I am. And it frightens me to no end to realize that most of them have no earthly idea of what they are doing, as demonstrated by the recent flurry of recalls.
The roster of recalling incompetents includes the fallen prime minister of Greece and the head honchos at Bank of America. Dishonorable mention also goes deservedly to the conceited souls at Netflix. They have let it go to their collective heads merely for having mastered the means to provide a movie nut of my insatiability with all the eye candy I crave.
Outgoing Greek Prime Minister Georgios Papandreou was insufficiently grateful when the Eurozone reached the consensus and pooled the funds necessary to bail out his bankrupt country. Simultaneously violating two common dictates, he did look a gift horse in the mouth, subsequently deciding that beggars could be choosers as he opted to put the bailout to a national referendum.
Stock markets tanked worldwide the moment he declared his sage resolve. I was bewildered to hear of it also, thinking to myself, would I put it up to the vote of somebody who is bleeding to death before applying a tourniquet?
It took a few days, but Papandreou, a Saint Paul native, finally came to his Minnesota senses and recalled his decision. Good thinking, Georgios, but what possessed you to broach the idea in the first place?
Bank of America, alias B of A, aka Bank of Adversity, is the institution to which I trust my few tattered, essentially worthless articles of U.S. currency for alleged safekeeping. Just as Americans were preparing to flog plastic of every description with an eye toward the glittering litter whose acquisition they believe to be a holiday season requisite, the B of A financial phenoms announced that they were soon to levy a monthly five-dollar fee for the mere privilege of swiping their debit cards.
Howls of American protest drowned out even the shouting at Athens.
Each monthly bill received, be it for phone, utilities or credit cards, is freighted with more hidden fees than there are clues in a Where’s Waldo puzzle. All routinely abide by these violations, believing blindly that there are good reasons for them. Yet the geniuses of Adversity had to publicize their latest robbery by a bank with a megaphone at the worst time of the year imaginable.
After contemplating so many imprecations bestowed upon them so generously, they recalled their latest attempt at larceny, leaving nothing but a bad taste in the public’s mouth.
As many others who consider the Cineplex with its alienating interiors, chatty audiences and intellectually challenged staff the consummate Hell on Earth, I was one among millions who embraced Netflix wholeheartedly. My enthusiasm made me an unofficial, unpaid salesman who often compelled even perfect strangers to subscribe to the website.
Yet when I displayed my avidity by watching Netflix DVDs and mailing them back in record time, the company decided to “throttle” me, which is to say it made me wait for weeks on end before sending the movies most recently released on DVD that I had requested. That they were punishing customer loyalty was only the first sign of trouble.
Netflix, when it decided to create separate websites for DVD rentals and streaming video, saw its stock value plummet as it also jacked up its rates for people who wanted both services. Within weeks, it lost 800,000 subscribers. I opted for streaming, having an innate distaste for scratched DVDs bearing Dorritos thumbprints, not to mention the hassle of going to the mailbox to return them.
Netflix recalled its disastrous decision to have separate websites after displaying to the universe that it was no different from most other big corporations in its greed and miscalculations.
Being of an analytical yet associative mind, I believe Papandreou, my Bank of Adversity and my purveyor of video streaming pleasure have in common a sense of institutional hubris compounded by a dearth of concern for the very people they are supposed to serve.
Don’t mess with success and don’t try to fix it if it ain’t broke, I advise, abiding simultaneously by two common dictates. Be like Coca-Cola, I say. Does it ever modify the secret formula for its core product?
But come to think of it … didn’t the company once bring out an item of its own called Coke Classic?
The U.S. Congress is using opposition to Iran as an excuse to attack President Obama’s executive authority in an ill-advised piece of legislation.
The “Iran Threat Reduction Act” HR1905, passed on November 2 by the House Foreign Relations Committee, neither reduces an Iranian threat, nor puts significant pressure on Iran’s leaders to change policies with which the United States disagrees. A corresponding bill has been introduced in the Senate (S1048).
If passed, the House bill would, however, make it illegal for any American diplomat to speak to or have any contact with an Iranian official unless the President certifies to Congress that not talking to the Iranian officials “would pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the vital national security interests of the United States” 15 days prior to that contact.
Former U.S. Ambassadors William Luers and Thomas Pickering point out that this bill is not only illegal, it places the United States in greater danger in the world. They write, “A war with Iran would be madness, and catastrophic for U.S. interests. Surely even the most hawkish on the Hill and in our chattering class must know in their heart of hearts that fact… .Congress should more correctly encourage the administration to get to know Iran and Iranians as the time-tested way of protecting our interests while avoiding conflict.”
In addition to tying the President’s hands on diplomacy—a violation of the Constitutional principle of separation of powers—the bill also prevents the President from issuing waivers to existing Iran trade sanctions for any reason, singling out the sale of vital airplane parts for civilian aircraft. Iran’s civilian air fleet is ageing, and without replacement parts, air travel on Iranian carriers poses a danger to the public, including American citizens who travel to Iran. The largest group to be affected is the more than a million Iranian-Americans who regularly travel to Iran. This bill puts their lives in danger; it punishes the public, not the Iranian leaders.
Additional provisions in the bill will result in a raise of oil prices world-wide, eventually hurting U.S. consumers.
These two bills have been introduced by parties who are angry at President Obama for his pledge to improve relations with Iran after his 2008 election, repudiating the policies of the Bush era. They want to punish him for his early stance, even though his policies toward Iran are now virtually the same as those of President Bush. Clearly a bonus for Republican supporters of the bill is the limitations it places on the President’s independence in conducting foreign affairs.
Many powerful groups in Washington lobbied for this bill including the American Israel Public Affairs Council (AIPAC) and the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD). These organizations are dedicated to making certain that the United States and Iran never achieve formal relations.
The aims of these organizations are misguided. The United States has in fact paid a serious price by not maintaining diplomatic contact with Iran for more than four decades. Iran’s actions in the world have been irksome to the United States government, but the inability to even talk with Iranian officials has deepened misunderstanding between the two nations. As a result even small matters of dispute that would be easily resolved under normal diplomatic contact become tangled and threatening.
Sharon Bialek spoke about an incident she encountered 14 years ago, in which Cain allegedly put his hand up her skirt, and suggested she interact sexually with him in exchange for a job.
Bialek said she worked for the National Restaurant Association, where Cain served as president and CEO. According to her statement, after she had been let go from her job, her boyfriend suggested she speak directly to Cain, to try to get her job back.
She said she met with Cain, in Washington to see the headquarters of the company and discuss getting her job back. When she arrived to the hotel Bialek said she was surprised at her room and insisted it was a mistake. When she met with Cain for dinner and found out that he upgraded her room. “He asked how I liked my room,” said Bialek. She said he then “smirked” and he said, “I upgraded you.”
They went to eat at a restaurant, and when driving back to the hotel, Bialek said Cain, “suddenly reached over and he put his hand on my leg, under my skirt and reached for my genitals.”
She told him, “This is not what I came here for,” to which Cain replied, “You want a job, right?”
Bialek’s attorney, Gloria Allred, who has been involved in several high-profile cases said, “Mr. Cain, while running for president, is actively lying to Americans. Enough is enough. We have to fight back.”
When Thaer AlHasnawi, 26, came to San Francisco from Jordan at age 14, he didn’t foresee taking on the role of political organizer for the Arab American community.
Yet over the past three months, AlHasnawi has done just that, joining dozens of other Arab Americans from San Francisco who have become active in the mayoral campaign to elect Supervisor John Avalos in Tuesday’s municipal election.
As Occupy Wall Street protests gain momentum across the nation, Silicon Valley De-Bug takes a look at some of the personal stories that moved individuals to join the movement in San Jose. Bay Area residents describe how the economic recession has taken a personal toll on their lives, and what ultimately brought them to occupy San Jose’s City Hall.
George Papandreou, Greece’s prime minister, is expected to resign as soon as a deal for an interim coalition government is agreed, perhaps as early as Sunday night, a senior member from his party said.
The main goal, duration and leader of such an administration must be agreed before Papandreou resigns, PASOK party politician Telemachos Hitiris told Greek state television on Sunday.
“We only have to wait for the prime minister’s announcements in the cabinet,” he said. “Everything must be done within the day, otherwise tomorrow it will be hell.”
Al Jazeera’s Jonah Hull, reporting from Athens, described the matter of Papandreou’s resignation as “political horseplay,” explaining that “the leader of the opposition is insisting that he won’t even start [coalition] talks until Papandreou resigns. Papandreou is saying he will…resign after they’re concluded.”
Papandreou has come under fire at home and abroad for his shortlived plan to let Greek voters decide on the Eurozone bailout deal.
He survived a confidence vote in parliament on Saturday, but politicians from his party have called on him to quit.
Hitiris said elections should be held after Greece meets its obligations to Eurozone partners, pinning the timing to around January or February.
Five thousand minors are in foster homes because they were separated from their families when their parents were detained and deported through the Secure Communities (S-Comm) program, according to a recent study by the Applied Research Center.
“This situation is intolerable and outrageous,” an editorial in La Opinión contends. “From its start until today, Secure Communities has set an example of incompetence and irresponsibility in meeting its objective of arresting undocumented immigrants who pose a danger to American society.”
Under S-Comm, local police are required to turn over to federal immigration authorities the fingerprint data of anyone they arrest.
Some 39 percent of those detained through the program have U.S.-citizen spouses or children. In Los Angeles, an estimated 1,178 children are in foster homes because their parents were deported or are in deportation proceedings.
“These are the cruel, sad consequences of a poorly planned and even worse executed deportation program,” the editorial concludes. “This is another powerful argument to, at the very least, put the Secure Communities program on ice.”
It’s no mystery that since the beginning of the recession the number one topic on voters’ minds has been job creation. But what happens when politicians fail miserably in reaching this goal? For North Carolina legislator Frank Iler, the answer is simple: create a smoke screen of anti-immigrant laws.
Iler was elected in 2010 to the State House of Representatives for District 17, Brunswick County. During his election campaign, Iler supported a plan called ‘100 Days That Will Change North Carolina.’ This document stated that if Republicans won the elections, within three months, they would eliminate burdensome restrictions on private enterprise, which would generate more jobs.
Election time came and Republican legislators won the majority in the State House of Representatives for the first time in over a century. The 100 days came and went. Today, almost a year later, unemployment levels have remained almost unchanged in North Carolina. According to the Employment Security Commission, the unemployment rate in September 2010 was 10 percent. A year later, it stands at 10.5 percent.
The second of the 10 points listed in the plan ‘100 Days That Will Change North Carolina’ said that they would look for ways to reduce taxes in order to make this a more competitive state and attract investment from large companies. For Congressman Iler, this was a crucial point given that Continental had plans to invest $500 million to build a new plant in his county of Brunswick.
Three weeks ago, Continental announced that its new plant would not be built in Iler’s county after all; it will not even be built in North Carolina. The multi-million dollar investment, which will generate an estimated 1,700 jobs, will be built in South Carolina.
How do you remedy this embarrassing situation? Iler has a strategy: Use controversy as a distraction. The Republican legislator is heading a new committee in the House of Representatives with the goal of drafting anti-immigrant laws.
“My personal opinion is that we need to make North Carolina as unwelcome for any illegal alien from wherever they come from,” Iler told reporters from Star News a week after Continental’s announcement.
It’s no surprise, in a city with such a large Chinese population, that mayoral candidates here have attempted to reach voters in the community by setting up Chinese-language sites. But according to the Sing Tao Daily, thanks to poor translations, some of these sites have done more harm than good.
Bevan Dufty is one of 16 candidates vying to take over the reins of City Hall. A former supervisor for District 8, which includes much of downtown and North Beach, Dufty’s Chinese-language “Meet Bevan” site made use of Google’s free on-line translator, which the Sing Tao notes garbled the language to the point of incomprehension.
Where his English site says Dufty “gets the big picture,” for example, the Chinese-language site reads, “Dufty gets a big photo.”
The result, the paper notes, left Chinese voters questioning Dufty’s platform and, more importantly, his sincerity in communicating with them.
Alabama will not let the battle over its breathtakingly harsh anti-immigrant law, HB 56, be fought just in the courts.
In a flurry of letters exchanged late last week the Department of Justice sought access to education records for Alabama as part of an inquiry looking into whether provisions of the law are violating the civil rights of Alabama’s residents. And twice Alabama refused the federal government’s request, arguing that the DOJ had “no legal authority to compel production” of its education records.
It all began last Wednesday, when Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez sent a letter to 39 Alabama superintendents in charge of districts with strong Latino enrollment asking for enrollment records. That request included a list of students designated as English Language Learners, and lists of students who had withdrawn from school or had unexcused absences since HB 56 had gone into effect.
The letter reminded Alabama school officials that a decades-old Supreme Court decision had affirmed the rights of U.S. resident children, regardless of their immigration status, to enroll in public schools.
The DOJ was prompted by reports that HB 56 was having a chilling effect on students too fearful to take advantage of their constitutional right to an education. The law seeks to undercut the basic rights of immigrants and includes a provision demanding schools track the immigration statuses of its students. Perez said that his office was concerned that the enforcement of HB 56 was potentially violating the Civil Rights Act and the Equal Opportunities Education Act.
Author and political analyst Earl Ofari Hutchinson won the prestigious Black Press Radio Magazine Columnist of the Year Award for 2011. The awards ceremony will held be at the White House November 15. It is the first time that the White House has officially held an awards ceremony for black press award winners. The dozens of nominees in all categories of the media profession were the best and brightest in American journalism and media communications. Hutchinson salutes the magazine for its influence in promoting and enhancing the work of African-American print and electronic media professionals nationally and globally.
“The Black Press All-Star awards presentation is solid recognition of the major influence and importance of the black press and African-American media professionals in the nation’s media life, “says Hutchinson, “Equally important the awards recognize and honor the achievements and the tireless work of African-American journalists, reporters, TV and radio professionals in reporting, making and shaping the nation’s vital news and issues.”
Mexican broadcast billionaire Emilio Azcarraga, CEO of Mexico’s biggest broadcaster, Grupo Televisa, and Ricardo Salinas, CEO of Mexico’s second largest broadcaster, TV Azteca, are protesting billionaire Carlos Slim’s move into online TV streaming, bringing their complaints to the attention of Mexican government regulators, reported Bloomberg News.
Slim is the co-chairman of America Movil (NYSE: AMX, NASDAQ: AMOV), Mexico’s main provider of wireless communication in Mexico and chairman of Telefonos de Mexico (NYSE:TMX, NASDAQ: TFONY), the main operator of fixed-line telecommunications in Mexico.
Both America Movil and Telefonos de Mexico are banned from providing television services under the terms of a 1990 telecommunications license. Grupo Televisa (NYSE: TV) and TV Azteca (BVM: TVAZTCA) mostly control the broadcast market in Mexico.