Diary of a Refugee: Finding Hope In Art and Education

By Vanessa Ceceña

Burma is a country in Southeast Asia that has been torn by civil war, unrest and a regime that instills fear in its people. After nearly 50 years of military rule, the country is currently in a process of renovation, but there are still accounts continued human rights violations.

Like in many countries that have experienced unrest and a level of genocide, many in Burma fled their country and entered refugee camps in neighboring Thailand. Here is the story of Eh De Gray.

De Gray identifies as Karen, one of the ethnic groups in Burma. He is the oldest of 5 and at the young age of 11, he decided to leave his home country and family to enter a refugee camp on the Burmese-Thai border. He wanted an education, an opportunity, something that he would not get if he remained in Burma.   [Read more…]

stop tpp banner

As Secret Trade Talks Reveal Cracks, Demonstrators Aim Death Blows at TPP

Pacific trade deal opponents hope that if Atlanta round fails, pro-corporate TPP could be knocked off track indefinitely

By Deidre Fulton / CommonDreams

As trade ministers from around the world continued meeting in Atlanta on Thursday for final-stretch negotiations on the corporate-friendly Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), civil society groups demonstrated on the streets in a final salvo against a deal they describe as “a wholesale auction of our rights, our freedoms, and our democracy to multinational corporations who put profits over people.”

“They’re getting close, but we can stop them,” reads the Citizens Trade Campaign’s call-to-action. “If we do, and the Atlanta round fails, many believe the TPP could be knocked off track indefinitely.”   [Read more…]


North Of The Fence: South Bay Politics and Events

By Barbara Zaragoza

Immigration and Crime

  • You might be surprised to learn that border cities continue to be among the safest in the country. Imperial Beach was ranked the second safest city in San Diego County.(Poway came in first.)
  • Also, you are least likely to be murdered in the two border cities of El Paso, TX and San Diego in comparison to 23 other cities in the U.S. Take a look at the FBI data that ranks cities by murder rate.
  • The Pew Research Center found that Asians have supplanted Hispanics as the largest group of newcomers. The organization also reports that views of immigrants are largely split along party lines in America. 71% of Republicans say immigrants in the U.S. are making crime worse, compared with 35% of Democrats.
  •   [Read more…]


    Oregon College Massacre, More Gun Nut Excuses

    By Doug Porter

    A very disturbed 26-year-old man killed nine people and injured seven others at a community college in Oregon on October 1st. He was killed in a gunfight with police officers responding to 911 calls.

    The President made his 15th appearance to address the nation following a mass shooting. He was obviously very angry and frustrated.

    The blowback from the right edge of the flat-earthers was, as usual, both ignorant and infuriating.   [Read more…]


    Are Charter School Directors Bending Pension Rules?

    By Rick Mercurio / Alianza North County

    Teachers and administrators in California’s public schools earn pensions based on several factors. For some, like Dennis Snyder, the founder of three charter schools in Escondido CA, it adds up to a healthy lifetime benefit, even though his final employer was not a public school district, and even though he found an apparent loophole in the regulations.

    Snyder’s situation

    Dennis Snyder worked as a teacher and football coach at Escondido High School starting in about 1965. In 1986 the principal fired Snyder as coach, citing the reason that he was not cooperative with the parent booster organization. Snyder appealed the firing to both the superintendent and the school board, and he lost both appeals.

    Although he was let go as head football coach, he retained his teaching position. However, in the early ‘90s Snyder switched jobs, becoming executive director of the Escondido Charter High School, which he founded. Heritage K-8 Charter School and Heritage Digital Academy were later founded by Snyder as well.

    Snyder’s salary as executive director eventually rose to almost $111,000.   [Read more…]

    Gary Gallegos

    SANDAG’s Gary Gallegos: ‘Transit is not going to work for every person in the region’

    By Sam Ollinger / BikeSD

    “We are not going to put everybody on a bike, we are not going to take everybody out of their car, transit is not going to work for every person in the region.” – Gary Gallegos, executive director of SANDAG, San Diego’s Metropolitan Planning Organization. January 8, 2014.

    “the SANDAG plan is to spend more than half the $204 billion on mass transit, adding five new Trolley lines, 32 new rapid bus lines and 275 miles of new bikeways, as well as 160 miles of freeway lanes intended to help transit and encourage carpools and van pools. The net effect would be to reduce county greenhouse gas emissions by considerably more than state targets.” – UT Editorial Board

    I don’t know what sort of drugs the UT Editorial Board is consuming, because if they bothered to read SANDAG’s own analysis they would have seen that implementing the existing Regional Transportation Plan (scheduled for a SANDAG board vote on October 9th) in its current form is going to increase the region’s greenhouse gas emissions.   [Read more…]


    University Contract Workers Wages –Or Lack Thereof– in the Crosshairs

    By Doug Porter

    Today (Oct 1), some contract employees working on University of California facilities will be seeing a pay hike to $13 an hour. The university system is California’s third largest employer and the largest employer in San Diego.

    Earlier this year UC President Janet Napolitano announced a plan to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour over a three-year roll-out for all workers, including contract ones, and today’s bump is just the first stage.  

    Or maybe they won’t be seeing that raise. The Los Angeles Times reports the Department of Labor has launched an investigation into long-time contractor Performance First Building Services failure to pay overtime to workers cleaning up after sporting events at UC Berkeley.   [Read more…]

    delano excerpt

    Return to Delano: the 50th Anniversary of the Delano Grape Strike

    By Maria E. Garcia

    A few weeks ago, when the United Farm Workers (UFW) posted that there would be a celebration commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Delano Grape Strike, I posted a simple sentence on Facebook: ” San Diego is anybody going?” Within a few minutes my friend Gloria Serrano-Medina responded with a simple “vamos” and with that one word a decision to be part of that celebration was made.

    This would not be my first trip to the Forty Acres, the parcel of land in Delano, California that in 1966 became the headquarters for the United Farm Workers of America, the first permanent agricultural labor union in the United States.   [Read more…]


    Random Acts of Kindess

    By Jeeni Criscenzo

    Thoughts while enjoying the super moon during the lunar eclipse of Sept. 27, 2015

    Although raised Roman Catholic and indoctrinated with 12 years of Catechism classes in parochial school, I decided, even before graduating high school that neither Catholicism nor any religion, was for me. When the Sisters of Charity taught that faith is a gift, I responded that I didn’t get the gift and didn’t want it. Long before I was “expelled” from the church for marrying a second time, I had decided that I could be a good person without following rules written by men who “believed” the earth was flat.

    So as I followed the coverage of Pope Francis’ recent visit to the United States, I kept in mind that he was the leader of a faith that will not relinquish power to women to make their own medical decisions or to give them access to leadership as priests, bishops or the papacy.   [Read more…]

    Ta-Nehisi Coates

    Ta-Nehisi Coates, ‘Unflinching’ Voice on Racism, Declared MacArthur Genius

    ‘Writing without shallow polemic and in a measured style, Coates addresses complex and challenging issues such as racial identity, systemic racial bias, and urban policing,’ declared the MacArthur Foundation.

    By Sarah Lazare / Common Dreams

    Journalist, author, and leading voice on anti-black racism in America, Ta-Nehisi Coates, was revealed Tuesday to be one of 24 recipients of the 2015 MacArthur Genius awards.

    “Writing without shallow polemic and in a measured style, Coates addresses complex and challenging issues such as racial identity, systemic racial bias, and urban policing,” declared the foundation. “He subtly embeds the present—in the form of anecdotes about himself or others—into historical analysis in order to illustrate how the implications of the past are still experienced by people today.”   [Read more…]

    Students in classroom

    To Cut Costs, College Students Are Buying Less Food and Even Going Hungry

    By Sara Goldrick-Rab, University of Wisconsin-Madison and Katharine Broton, University of Wisconsin-Madison / The Conversation

    Studies have long shown that a college student’s odds of achieving financial security and a better quality of life improve when he or she earns a degree.

    But what are some of the obstacles that prevent degree attainment?

    At the Wisconsin HOPE Lab, we study the challenges that students from low- and moderate-income households face in attaining a college degree. Chief among these are the many hurdles created by the high price of college. Paying the price of attending college, we find, changes who attends and for how long, as well as the college experience itself – what classes students take, the grades they earn, the activities in which they engage and even with whom they interact.

    Our recent research shows an alarming trend on college campuses: an increasing number of students tell us that they are struggling in college, sometimes even dropping out, because they can’t afford enough of life’s basic necessity – food.   [Read more…]


    School Board Trustee Praised, Defended and Investigated, All in a Day at San Diego Unified

    By Doug Porter

    School Board Trustee Marne Foster is at the center of several controversies in the San Diego Unified School District. A meeting of the trustees yesterday featured numerous TV trucks lined up outside, partisans and opponents inside, along with three distinct actions and enough drama for a cable mini-series.

    Documents released by the district answered many questions raised concerning the School of Creative and Performing Arts, at the center of the current controversy. Responding to charges that Trustee Foster had intervened in school affairs on behalf of her son, the district’s documents amounted to a master class in how to respond to a political controversy: hit’em [critics] hard and hit ‘em long. This situation is far from resolved, however.

    Also, the school board authorized an investigation into Trustee Foster’s involvement in a fundraiser on behalf of her son’s college fund and a claim filed against the district allegedly by the child’s father. And they passed a resolution praising Foster for her work promoting equity in the district.  Confused yet? It is complicated, to be sure.   [Read more…]

    Marriage Equality

    I Hope We Can Finally Just Let Adam and Steve Be

    (No Matter What our Beliefs Happen to Be)

    This Kim Davis situation is just too familiar for my liking, too much like it has always been in this country based on what I’ve seen in 77 years.

    I mean I have no idea what this woman’s work entails in a day. But one of her tasks seems, to me, like a dream job, where all she’d have to do is a little soft shoe with jazz hands and a big smile and sing: “Howdy do. Congratulations, you two. Here’s your marriage license. Toddle-oo!”

    But she can only do that for “Adam and Eve.” “Adam and Steve” or any woman whose honey is a she has to be insulted by her for all the world to see because of what her scripture has taught her to believe.   [Read more…]


    Does the Pope Smoke Dope?

    By the Ol’ OB Hippie

    Does the Pope smoke dope? Does Pope Francis imbibe in the inhalation of medicinal cannabis?

    No, really – I wanted to know if the Pope smoked dope. I have heard rumors to that effect – for years actually. And I wanted to find out.

    I knew he was coming to the U.S., so I had to figure out a way to meet up with him.   [Read more…]


    Nuclear Shutdown News for September 2015 – the Costs of San Onofre

    Disaster Capitalism and the Shutdown of the San Onofre Nuclear Plant

    By Michael Steinberg /Black Rain Press

    This story starts with a clandestine dinner in Warsaw, Poland. Present are Michael Peevey, president of the California Public Utility Commission, and Stephen Pickett, a high ranking official with Southern California Edison, a major electrical utility.

    It is March 2013, the same month SCE announced the unexpected permanent shutdown of its San Onofre Nuclear Power Station.

    No nukers were elated. But their joy later turns to disappointment and then outrage when the CPUC subsequently hands down a decision that leaves us on the hook for billions of dollars in costs supposedly related to the shutdown of San Onofre.

    How did this happen, and so relatively quickly?   [Read more…]


    Stand Up for Planned Parenthood on #PinkOutDay in San Diego

    By Doug Porter

    Today’s the day. Three months into the latest effort by the self-righteous right to make women’s health into a wedge issue, supporters of Planned Parenthood are standing up for their cause.

    There are 4 “Pink Out Day” events in San Diego County and 249 actions around the country planned for September 29th. Coincidentally (okay, maybe not), this is also the same day Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards will face off against the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

    Back in July, an organization called the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) released a series of videos purporting to show Planned Parenthood doctors selling parts from aborted fetuses to researchers for profit, which would have been illegal. The videos were selectively edited. The people behind the CMP have a long history of harassing medical personnel and women visiting clinics.   [Read more…]

    sdfp income-inequality

    Why We Must End Upward Pre-Distribution to the Rich

    By Robert Reich / RobertReich.Org

    You often hear inequality has widened because globalization and technological change have made most people less competitive, while making the best educated more competitive.

    There’s some truth to this. The tasks most people used to do can now be done more cheaply by lower-paid workers abroad or by computer-driven machines.

    But this common explanation overlooks a critically important phenomenon: the increasing concentration of political power in a corporate and financial elite that has been able to influence the rules by which the economy runs.   [Read more…]

    army teamwork

    Bush AND Obama Both Responsible for Screwing Up the Middle East

    Regime Change Was Their Common Theme

    By John Lawrence

    Obama wanted it to be part of his legacy that he ended two wars, those in Iraq and Afghanistan, which were started by his predecessor, George W Bush along with his vice President Dick Cheney. Only it’s not working out entirely as he planned, and he’s coming in for a lot of criticism from, among others, Cheney himself. In a new book, Exceptional, Why the World Needs a Powerful America, written with daughter Liz Cheney, Cheney criticizes Obama while defending his own legacy. Cheney has been in full self-rehabilitation mode ever since he stepped down as George W Bush’s brain.

    The criticism now is that Obama left Iraq too soon and thus created a power vacuum that ISIS has filled. No doubt ISIS stepped into the vacuum created by the departure of Saddam Hussein, but the part that Cheney is missing is that his administration took out Saddam for no valid reason whatsoever and created the power vacuum in the first place. As long as Saddam was in power, no group such as al Qaeda or ISIS could possibly have gained a foothold in Iraq.

    As Colin Powell said recently on Meet the Press, and I paraphrase, you can’t take out the guy at the top if there is no structure beneath him to support a stable government and expect good results. Certainly neither George W Bush, who wanted to create western style democracies in the Middle East using war as a means, nor Barack Obama, who wanted to do the same thing by encouraging the youth to rise up after getting rid of despicable dictators, have achieved the results they were hoping for.   [Read more…]

    Mike Mozart/Flickr

    Your Weed Killer Might Kill You

    By Jill Richardson / OtherWords

    When I began writing about agriculture nearly a decade ago, I learned quickly that people generally believed that Roundup, the best-selling weed killer made by Monsanto, was relatively harmless.

    Roundup breaks down quickly, everyone said — and into non-toxic components, they added. If homeowners can buy it at gardening stores, and cities around the United States use it to kill weeds in parks where children play, it must be benign, right?

    Wrong. Within the past year, the story has changed.   [Read more…]


    Congressional Values: “Zippidy do-da, zippidy day.”

    By Doug Porter

    Speaker of the House John Boehner was singing the classic Disney ditty as he walked in for a Friday morning press conference where he shocked just about everybody by announcing his resignation.

    While Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) is considered a probable successor to Boehner as Speaker, it’s worthwhile to look at the recently concluded 10th annual Value Voters Summit for some context about the changes taking place.

    It was, after all, the crowd at the political conference for American social conservative activists that gave a standing ovation after hearing news of the Ohio congressman’s resignation.   [Read more…]

    healthy planet

    Taking the Leap: Imagine a New World

    By Jim Miller

    Last week the Pope came to America and delivered his groundbreaking message about the interrelated problems of climate change and economic inequality as well as the moral imperative to act to address them.  

    We heard this message at the same time we learned that we have lost half the world’s marine animals since 1970 and that Exxon’s own research had confirmed the human role in climate change decades ago even as they were heavily funding efforts to block solutions.  During all of this, we were also reminded that every GOP candidate for President has absolutely nothing to offer in the face of this deadly threat.  

    Clearly we need to change the game and do it quickly.  But how?     [Read more…]

    via Citizens for North County Facebook

    Carlsbad Referendum Signatures Stun Caruso, City Council Pals

    Strawberry Field Owner’s Campaign Donations Revealed

    By Richard Riehl

    It must have been quite a shock for L.A.’s Caruso Affiliated executives to see the stack of signed petitions delivered to the Carlsbad city clerk’s office last Thursday. The 9,000 signers of the referendum petition are calling for a public vote on the developer’s plan for a lagoon-view shopping center, as promised in the title of the initiative, Measure to be Submitted Directly to the Voters.

    When the Carlsbad city Council unanimously approved his plan on August 25, Caruso had already spent nearly $3 million on signature gatherers and a blizzard of glossy, full-color mailers to persuade 20,000 Carlsbadians that his plan to build a shopping mall was all about saving the Strawberry Fields.

    The day after the council voted, a grassroots group, Citizens for North County, announced its plan to launch a referendum drive. Caruso had to redouble his marketing campaign. But this time his mailers, accompanied by daily prime time TV ads, featured headshot photos of and quotes from all five city Council members, as well as the owner of the Strawberry Fields. Each repeated the lie that signing the referendum would destroy the Strawberry Fields, despite the promise of Prop D to preserve them, passed by voters in 2006. The Caruso mailer included a detachable, postage-paid card to return to the city clerk for signers of the referendum to have their names withdrawn.   [Read more…]

    Photo by Roebot

    The Movement for a Balanced Transportation Future In the San Diego Region

    By Monique López, policy advocate at Environmental Health Coalition

    We all need to move, and how we move influences our quality of life. The time of our commute, the safety of our sidewalks, the quality of our air and the type of transportation options we have determine how well we live our lives. On October 9, 2015, the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) will decide how to invest $204 billion into our region’s transportation infrastructure.

    This decision is critical to our livelihood. That much investment will have a tremendous impact on the lives of everyone in our region, particularly the lives of those in San Diego’s urban core where freeways intersect neighborhoods and transit, biking and walking infrastructure is scarce.

    How these funds are invested will determine whether our region takes a step toward becoming a forward-thinking, sustainable place or whether we remain driving in circles, stuck in the incessant traffic jam that is our car-first mentality.   [Read more…]

    Photo by Atmospheric Infrared Sounder

    California’s Renewables Progress Commendable But Emission Of Global CO2 Still Exponential

    By Frank Thomas

    California continues its remarkable legislative breakthroughs in going green under the SB 350 Clean Energy and Pollution Reduction Act of 2015. Legislation just passed sets two goals for 2030: 50% of state utility power from renewables and a 50% increase in energy efficiency of buildings. The provision for a 50% reduction in petroleum use for cars and trucks failed to pass as did the SB 32 bill that sets GHG emission targets for 2030 and 2050.

    Still, the sweeping new mandates passed call for DOUBLING energy efficiency and using renewables for HALF of California’s electricity generation by 2030. It is uncertain how fast and to what extent transportation electrification will proceed California’s aim to step up its commitment to clean energy acknowledges the scientific reality we humans don’t have the luxury of lots of time to transition FAST to renewable energy and much improved energy efficiency.   [Read more…]

    pink roses

    In Memoriam: Judy Oliveira

    By Staff

    San Diego Free Press readers are familiar with long time contributor John Lawrence. He has written a Tuesday column ever since we launched in June of 2012. We were saddened to learn that John recently lost his life partner Judy Oliveira.

    There will be a memorial service on Saturday, October 3 and John extends an invitation to the SDFP community to attend.   [Read more…]


    Looking Back at the Week: Sept 20-26

    This week’s edition of Looking Back at the Week features articles, commentaries, columns, toons, and other work by San Diego Free Press regulars, irregulars, columnists, at-large contributors, and sourced writers on: RICOing climate change deniers, Serra’s unworthy Sainthood, Coronado’s bike lane madness, the Interfaith Forum on Climate Justice, Bayard Rustin coming alive, Trump tapping racism, Esco’s continued history of hatred, Nordy’s-On-The-Lagoon, the Pope on climate change and helping the poor, Will Falk on suicide, on another Mission Valley development, Ayotzinapa a year later, refugee families, Bill Gibbs, and lots of other grassroots news & progressive views from San Diego’s friendly, neighborhood, all volunteer, community news site.
      [Read more…]

    Bill Gibbs

    Flying Lessons: Centenarian Bill Gibbs’ Path from Logan Heights to Montgomery Field

    By Maria Garcia and Connie Zuniga

    Bill Gibbs loved airplane flight so much that by the age of twenty-two he had developed barren scrub land in San Diego into his own airport and established a flying service there. Bill, who grew up in Logan Heights, recounted a remarkable story to us at his Mt. Soledad home. He spoke of family hardships during his youth, of hard work and how his passion for flying ultimately led him to develop what is now known as Montgomery Field Airport and a flying service that continues to operate today.

    Bill’s story is also a remarkably long one– he will be 105 years old in October.   [Read more…]

    Photo by Tony Webster

    What Happened To the Central American Refugee Crisis?

    By Vanessa Ceceña

    Minors and families chose, and continue to choose, the dangerous and lengthy journey from Central American to the U.S.-Mexico border, simply because it’s a more appealing option than remaining in their communities of origin.

    Many flee the proliferation of gang violence, the continued lack of economic opportunities. Others travel to reunify with family members whom they have not seen for years. Last year we witnessed the greatest surge of Central Americans arriving to our border seeking refuge. By the end of fiscal year 2015, a total of 26,685 unaccompanied minors had arrived at the Southwest U.S.-Mexico border.   [Read more…]