March 21-27, 2007

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Silicon Valley News Notes

What About Bob?

Maybe under the circumstances, it was silly to expect Jeppesen International Trip Planning director Bob Overby to show up at last Thursday's meeting of the San Jose Human Rights Commission. But on the other hand, win, place or show, he couldn't have done any worse than his quote in the The New Yorker in October: "we do all of the extraordinary rendition flights—you, know, the torture flights." Still, the meeting was noticeably Bob-less, though the commission had made a point to invite him this month. In the end, the commission passed a resolution asking the City Council to investigate Downtown Association member Jeppesen and ban them from city-sponsored activities. They've been criticized by Amnesty International for helping the CIA transport suspects to countries where they can use torture to question them. At the end of last year, South Bay Mobilization for Peace and Justice's Charlotte Casey asked the Council to remove Jeppesen's sponsor banner from Downtown Ice and was ignored. Because the HRC advises the City Council on human rights, SBMPJ asked them to take a closer look. Commission members had said they wanted to get Jeppesen's side, but Overby instead sent a statement saying he hoped everyone would understand that Jeppesen provides services to its clients on a confidential basis. Jeppesen spokesman Tim Neale tells Fly, "We just don't discuss who are clients are or what services we provide for them in the way of flight planning." The vote last week wasn't a lock by any means. Some commissioners wondered if it was appropriate for them to take a position given we aren't seeing anyone tortured in San Jose. Gil Villagrán, a lecturer on human rights at SJSU's School of Social Work considers it a matter of semantics. "They're not doing it here. They're doing it all over the world," he said. "If you want to do trip planning for torture, we should say that we don't want any part of it done here."

No Press Pass For Sentinel

"We all knew that if Mr. Singleton bought our paper, we'd be doomed," says Santa Cruz Sentinel pressman Jim Borrego. And yet, last month, while Dean Singleton's MediaNews Group was snapping up the Sentinel via the California News Partnership, CNP Prez and Merc publisher George Riggs made a personal visit to Santa Cruz to assure the staff that the paper would continue to be printed locally and that no layoffs were planned. But in a move that surprised only those employees who desperately wanted to believe Riggs was on the level, the Sentinel's pressmen have been informed that the paper will no longer be printed in Santa Cruz as of April 30. , printed in town since its inception more than a century ago, will no longer be printed in town and the last day of printing in Santa Cruz will be April 29. The decision may affect only 11 printing jobs, along with a few clerical positions, but for a community that has seen the daily paper printed in town since its inception over a century ago, there's a lot more at stake. MediaNews will offer the pressmen a handful of jobs at a lower-tier pay-scale, and a severance package (two weeks pay for each year at the Sentinel, capping at 12 years, and health insurance until May). "I've been a pressman for 37 years," says Borrego, who is hoping to return to Watsonville's Register-Pajaronian. "I never thought I'd be out of a job." Still, he wasn't fooled by Media News' posturing, and neither was Paul Kolter, of the press operators' union in San Francisco, which represents the Sentinel's pressmen. "Originally we were told that they would 'probably' honor the contract," Kolter says. He got plenty of tip-off from a series of MediaNews decision to close or nonunionize local press plants in Alameda County and Pleasanton, but also says he was happy with a recent contract MediaNews negotiated with the workers at the Monterey County Herald. "We got some decent improvements," he said. "We're pretty happy with the situation in Monterey. We're unhappy with what's going on in Santa Cruz." Everyone's new favorite guessing game: Will the new owners keep the Sentinel in downtown Santa Cruz? An internal posting assured employees the paper will stay there—"as long as it's financially feasible." That, friends, is what Fly calls a "limited warranty."

Bringing Katrina Home

If everyone agrees that the government screwed up the response to Katrina, is the best solution really to ask the same government for more help? Yes, according to the Gulf Coast Civic Works Project that got a boost from state Assemblymember Sally Lieber on Friday. Lieber was spoken of in the hushed tones often reserved for people thought to have an all-seeing third eye. "She's here," whispered Dr. Scott Myers-Lipton, associate professor of sociology at San Jose State, as Lieber walked into a second floor room at San Jose's MLK Library. Lieber mediated the discussion, and SJSU students spoke about their trip to New Orleans last summer, advocating an initiative by the GCCWP to help legislate 100,000 $15-per-hour civil works jobs for Gulf Coast residents to rebuild their communities. Lipton cited Depression-era WPA programs and Iraq (where "the U.S. has created 40,000 public works jobs") as a model. Why should Leiber and the California Legislature care about any of this? Because, he says, a similar tragedy could happen in the Bay Area, where earthquake prediction is almost as popular as the lottery.

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