Berkeley / East Bay
Gray Panthers Newsletter
6501 Telegraph Ave.- Oakland CA 94609
There will be no General Meeting in November, and December. There will be a holiday party December 9, 2-5pm at Redwood Gardens, with wonderful music,
Teach-In on Berkeley's Housing Crisis
Berkeley faces a housing crisis. Rents are soaring and home prices out of reach for most of us. The city is an increasingly unaffordable place for low and moderate income households and for students, and is threatening the city’s valued diversity.
It will be held on Sunday, Novermber22 from 2:00 - 4:30pm at the BERKELEY ARTS FESTIVAL SPACE 2133 UNIVERSITY AVE (Next to Ace Hardware) BERKELEY
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Third Mondays, Noon - 1:00 pm. date subject to change –– check www.epicalc.org
Oakland Federal Building, 1301 Clay Street (two blocks from 12th Street BART)
People lie down in front of the Federal Building, covered with sheets to represent the dead. Names of some Californians who have died in Iraq and the names of some Iraqi dead are read during the event. A gong is sounded after each name.
Please bring a white sheet. A pad to lie on is recommended.
Info: Ecumenical Peace Institute, www.epicalc.org (510)990-0374.
TAX THE RICH RALLY meets every Monday 5-6 pm at the top of Solano Ave in Berkeley (rain cancels) to protest the inequality of taxes in our country. We hold signs saying “Tax the Rich” and “Tax the Big Corporations.”
Every 3rd Friday, Gray Panthers and Strawberry Creek Lodge sponsor a Peace rally,
at Acton and University in Berkeley.
Next rally will be on Friday November 20, 2-3 pm.
Come sing, wave signs, listen to approving honks from passing cars and trucks. For more info, Call Fran Rachel at 841-4143
This rally will be held starting at 11am on Saturday, November 21. It will start at Lake Merritt Amphitheater and march to Frank Ogawa / Oscar Grant Plaza, arriving about 1pm. The Berkeley Gray Panthers will have a table there.
The next day, November 22, there will be a teach-in on Berkeley's housing crisis, at the Berkeley Arts Festival building 2133 University Avenue. (see detailed notice below).
Kriss Worthington reported that on Tuesday 10/27, the Berkeley City Council put the $240K back in the Housing Trust Fund.
This big building development in downtown Berkeley at 2211 Harold Way was approved by the ZAB, but is being appealed by various groups, including Gray Panthers
Our report on the September general membership meeting contained a "quote" from Council Member Laurie Capitelli,
comparing affordable housing to chocolate cake.
We had gotten this from a remark by Council Member Kriss Worthington.
At the beginning of the November meeting, Kriss apologized and explained that he had been reading from a document which was a paraphrase, not a quote, from Council Member Laurie Capitelli.
The theme of the Gray Panthers general membership meeting on October 28, 2015 was the United Nations. A replacement for the ineffective League of Nations, the United Nations was established after WWII on October 24, 1945 at Lake Success NY in order to prevent another such conflict. At its founding, the UN had 51 member states; there are now 193. The UN is now 70 years old.
There were three speakers at the meeting: Rita Maran , Ann Fagan Ginger and Carol Mosher. About 20 people were in the audience.
Rita Maran led off. She is a member of the Berkeley Disability Commission and chair of a sub-committee concerned with international rights of disabled people.She noted that this has been a touchstone issue in Berkeley for many years. The Center for Independent Living is here as are numerous other NGOs which have worked for a long time for persons with disabilities.
In 1970, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed. This act acknowledges our duty to both our national population and the international population, through the UN. A number of years later, the UN formulated the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). This Convention, which is like a treaty when a nation ratifies it, used much material from the ADA.
Judy Newman, a local activist, contributed to the ADA. She now works for the US State Department as Special Advisor for International Disability. The CRPD was ratified by most UN member states during the 1990s, up to 150 today.
The US, which had been one of the principal operators formulating the treaty, has not ratified it. The US has ratified the UN Charter and several other human rights treaties, but not the CRPD. President Clinton signed the CRPD, but that indicated only the intention to ratify; the treaty does not become US law until it is ratified.
In principle, under the UN Charter, a nation which has a constitution that discriminates against its citizens on the basis of things like disability, race, language, religion or sexual orientation cannot become a UN member. South Africa, under apartheid, was the only nation ever to be expelled from the UN. This non-discrimination principle has done a lot to get the US to approve same-sex marriage.
So-far, the US has also not ratified the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women(CEDAW). A total of seven other UN member states have also failed to ratify.
So what’s the holdup with CRPD and CEDAW? One problem seems to be the notion among some conservatives that US law is a sovereign matter and should not be dictated by international law. But when the US Supreme Court ruled that juveniles could not be sentenced to life without parole, the justices referred to an article written by University of San Francisco Professor of Law Connie de la Vega, who participates in United Nations human rights meetings.
One problem specifically with CRPD could be that the international disability treaty extends the US ADA by calling for “universal design” – consistent practice in things like curb cuts for wheelchair use. Berkeley is very good on this, but some other US jurisdictions may not like being compelled.
In the case of CEDAW, the argument is made that US law already takes good care of women and that the US on its own has done more to help women internationally than CEDAW has accomplished .
When the US declines to ratify such international treaties, our national voice is diminished; other nations are not inclined to pay attention to our preaching about rights and democracy.
This reluctance to ratify can get very embarrassing. In December 2012, the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee held hearings in order to proceed with ratification of the CRPD. Former Senator Robert Dole appeared before the committee; Mr. Dole has become disabled and was using a wheelchair. Normally, the outcome of a Senate hearing is expected in advance; if the expectation is to be slammed with a rejection, the hearing is not held. Dole was invited because he was one of the major drafters of the ADA; he knew all the technicalities and had also worked on the international treaty.
Five votes were missing for the ratification; frustrated, Mr. Dole rolled out of the hearing. This slammed door from the Senate outraged many Berkeley people.
The Berkeley Peace and Justice Commission has formed a sub-committee, which Rita chairs, on the rights of persons with disabilities. Some members are drawn from other Berkeley Commissions, including Aging, Disability, Mental Health, Status of Women. The sub-committee is focused on getting the CRPD known about and ratified. Already, the commission has recommended that the Berkeley City Council write a strong letter to the US Senate, urging ratification. They are also broadening outreach to other organizations. Rita invited us to use the Internet (UN.ORG) to compare the provisions of the ADA with those in the CRPD, to see what extra things are in the international version.
Ann disagreed with Rita over one point; she said that when the President signs one of the UN Conventions, the US has made certain commitments even before the Senate ratifies.
Her new book (to be released December 10) is titled “Our 100 Human Rights, How to Exercise them and get them enforced”. These 100 human rights are all found in the UN Charter – Article 55. The first is the right to peaceably assemble to petition the government for redress of grievances. Other rights include the international covenant on civil and political rights, the convention on the elimination of racial discrimination and the convention against torture and other cruel or degrading treatment or punishment. There are also rights of prisoners, veterans, immigrants, youth, unemployed and of course the rights of seniors.
In the book, for each right, she lists where it may be found in the US Constitution, or Bill of Rights, in court opinions and where it may be found in the relevant UN treaties.
The book also has “to-do” lists of what citizens can do to get rights enforced.
One of the tools we have is called “mobilization of shame.” For example, if the President signs the convention on the rights of the child and then anyone hears that a child has been abused, this can be reported to the UN/US network on human rights and ask them to send it to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, which will publish the report around the world.
Ann said we know that this “mobilization of shame” reporting has impact. When police shot at people trying to cross a bridge in New Orleans to escape hurricane Katrina, the Meiklejohn Institute wrote a letter to the UN human rights committee and urged them to do something about it. When such complaints are received, the committee generates a “Concluding Observations” report in multiple languages which is distributed to UN member states. The complaint about New Orleans asked why the US Government did not do something to prosecute the police officers.
This stuff is embarrassing to the US. It took a while, but eventually the State of Louisiana held a trial. The police officers testified inaccurately and were acquitted. But then, the pressure from the UN was sufficient to force a federal trial, which led to convictions and jail sentences.
To contact the network on human rights: http://www.ushrnetwork.org/
The last speaker was Carol Mosher, of the local United Nations Association (UNA). She noted that UNA was once neighbor to Gray Panthers in the CIL building. UNA is now located in the basement of the Lutheran Church at College & Haste (open 2-5pm Tues-Sat -- may have to ring the doorbell).
She spoke about briefly UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund.
In 1990 35,000 children under 5 died of preventable diseases. In 2013 16,000 children of that age died. Good, but not good enough! There has always been a high death rate in this age group, due to malnutrition, war and disease, especially in South Asia. UNICEF also has been dealing with earthquake victims and refugees. They have a huge supply warehouse in Copenhagen.
She held up a colorful chart of “Sustainable Goals”. She asked us where the children’s disease problem would go. We decided in #3, Health. UNICEF had hoped to achieve universal primary education by 2015.
The UNICEF new target is 2/1000 children in the first 28 days, which is the most critical time, and for the kids under 5 years, 25/1000 are the targets to save from preventable disease. Yemen received $183Million from UN, and Syria. UNICEF works with other organizations, including the World Health Organization (WHO). Places with severe problems with children's health, such as Yemen and Syria, received $185 million and $287 million respectively.
(an expanded version of this report is available on our website http://www.berkeleygraypanthers.mysite.com/un_report.html)