March 7-13, 2007

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Silicon Valley News Notes

Last Splash

Like the shape of Ryland Pool, the fate of San Jose's closed municipal pools came full circle at last week's City Council meeting, where councilmembers voted unanimously to repair and reopen Alviso, Biebrach, Mayfair and Ryland pools as soon as possible. This, of course, is what residents said they wanted before the city spent $250,000 on a consultant, and about 100 sign-carrying community members showed up to make sure it was a slam dunk. They weren't happy that consultant Scot Hunsaker and Parks and Recreation's deputy director Cynthia Bojorquez kicked Alviso and Ryland pools off their PowerPoint presentation in favor of developing new enhanced pools elsewhere. Hunsaker and Bojorquez asked the council to designate pools as citywide amenities—not neighborhood resources—and proposed that several versions of big blow-out water parks be developed in the future. They also suggested that Alviso pool be offloaded to another planning project, where it would sink into a three-year limbo of nonactivity. The council clearly recognized that this would have pushed the water-wing set off the deep end, since the closed pools are within walking distance of underserved high-density neighborhoods, while the same residents would have to drive to the proposed "aquatic centers" on sweltering summer days. Loraine Wallace Rowe, a long time Ryland Park resident, gave a thumbs up to the latest twist. "It seems like city staff have a preconceived agenda," she says. "At every meeting people said, 'We want our pools opened, period.' Then you go to the next meeting and it's like it wasn't said. It's delightful to have a City Council that is finally listening to us."

What the Cluck?

Whether or not you think meat is murder, there's a monthly San Jose ritual that you really ought to see for yourself. People For the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has taken to staking out the KFC/Taco Bell on North Bascom every first Saturday of the month, and watching it go down is like a crash course in the best and worst of activism. The issues are serious—PETA is protesting KFC's treatment of their future extra-crispy drumsticks, and the fact that federal law exempts chickens from the Animal Welfare and Humane Slaughter acts. Protesters at Saturday's rally held signs and distributed leaflets to whoever would take them, advertising ("KFC Does Chickens Wrong"), which notes that KFC kills chickens in absurdly nasty ways, describing horrific torture methods—"live scalding, life-long crippling injuries, and painful debeaking"—like something out of a Tarantino film. But this scene is known to turn into a circus. Saturday featured PETA member Alfredo Kuba arguing for the entire protest—well over an hour—because he wasn't allowed to stand next to KFC's door and hand out pictures of decapitated chickens. Apparently he was surprised that he was required to move the graphic pamphleteering to the sidewalk, which led to an argument about the restrictions of property law, an area in which no one present appeared to be all that knowledgeable. Amazingly, after an hour-and-a-half, they just agree to disagree and walk away. According to PETA member Carol Evans, this endless arguing happens every month between Alfredo and whatever cop is unlucky enough to be on duty. The protesters were generally met with confusion and apathy—chicken torture is a tough sell. "We understand that," says Evans. "And we're not even saying that you shouldn't eat chicken. We just don't want you to eat KFC chicken." She passes a leaflet to a passerby, who promptly crumples the paper into a ball and throws it on the ground. "But this is a start."

Keeping Out The 'Wolves'

Fly was intrigued recently to read about Stanford taking on a controversial Turkish nationalist film, Valley of the Wolves: Iraq. According to one particularly eye-opening advertisement for the Stanford screening, the film—in which a group of elite Turkish commandos become the good guys against a backdrop of American atrocities in Iraq—had been slated for a limited American release in December 2006 but "quietly dropped at the last minute after a letter from the Anti-Defamation of B'nai Br'ith to the film's U.S. distributors objected to 'the incendiary anti-Jewish and anti-American themes and characters in the film.'" The same advertisement proudly declared that "as a service to the Stanford academic community at large, we offer you the chance to see this important film for yourself." OK, except that the film was then just as quietly dropped from its Stanford screening, which was scheduled for Feb. 17, and was sponsored by the university's continuing studies department, the Abbasi program in Islamic studies, and the Middle East Collection of the Stanford University Libraries. Days before the screening, Charles Junkerman, the dean of continuing studies, sent out an email message saying the film screening had been abruptly canceled. Junkerman cited the fact that the sponsors could not recruit "an appropriately broad panel" to discuss the themes of the controversial film during a planned post-film conversation. The dean's note conveyed nothing of any possible outside pressure influencing the decision. Stanford's three institutional co-sponsors, however, are keeping tight-lipped about the decision. Neither Junkerman at continuing studies or representatives from the Abbasi program returned repeated calls from Fly for comment. John Eilts, from the Middle East Collection of the Stanford University Libraries, did respond to a query via email, but only to say that his organization's sponsorship was limited to providing "infrastructure materials."

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