Deaths of homeless people go uncounted in Oakland — and most places

By Kimberly Veklerov Updated 6:00 am, Sunday, March 11, 2018 window._taboola = window._taboola || []; _taboola.push({ mode: 'thumbnails-c', container: 'taboola-interstitial-gallery-thumbnails-5', placement: 'Interstitial Gallery Thumbnails 5', target_type: 'mix' }); _taboola.push({flush: true}); Photo: Michael Macor, The Chronicle Image 1of/5 CaptionClose Image 1 of 5 Buy photo Wilma Lozada (left), and outreach team member and Dr. Colin Buzza visit a homeless encampment near Lake Merritt in Oakland. Alameda County Health Services recently started a new street medicine program in which psychiatrists go into encampments specifically to provide treatment for opioid addiction and mental illness. less Wilma Lozada (left), and outreach team member and Dr. Colin Buzza visit a homeless encampment near Lake Merritt in Oakland. Alameda County Health Services recently started a new street medicine program in which ... more Photo: Michael Macor, The Chronicle Buy this photo Image 2 of 5 Buy photo A makeshift memorial to a homeless man who was slain in Oakland. A makeshift memorial to a homeless man who was slain in Oakland. Photo: Michael Macor, The Chronicle Buy this photo Image 3 of 5 Buy photo The number of people who have died at a homeless encampment under Highway 24 along Northgate Avenue in Oakland is unknown. The number of people who have died at a homeless encampment under Highway 24 along Northgate Avenue in Oakland is unknown. Photo: Michael Macor, The Chronicle Buy this photo Image 4 of 5 Buy photo Dr. Colin Buzza talks through a tent during a visit to a homeless encampment near Lake Merritt in Oakland. Alameda County Health Services recently started a new street Continue Reading

Poor people go to jail for ignoring the law repeatedly

"Jailing people for their poverty is wrong, cruel and illegal," says Blake Strode in the Post-Dispatch on Jan. 17. I agree that debtors' prison is immoral. Strode's opinion on this is misleading. Poor black people are not jailed for being poor. They are jailed for a life pattern of ignoring the law repeatedly. Their behavior begins with driving poorly maintained cars with expired licenses and registration tags. These violators run red lights, speed and drive carelessly, garnering traffic citations that go unpaid. Unpaid tickets garner more citations for failure to pay fines and failure to appear for court dates. All of this illegal behavior is not caused by poverty. It is the result of disregard for law and order. If the people Blake Strode is worried about obeyed the laws, they would not be subject to fines or jail time, or warrants for their arrest. People who demonstrate a pattern of serial law-breaking deserve fines and jail time. If poor people do not want trouble with the law, they should not commit criminal behavior. I drive a 22-year-old car. I obey the traffic laws. I have no tickets because I have high regard for obeying laws. If poor people do not want jail or fines, stop committing crimes of all kinds. It does not cost any money to obey the law. David J. Busse  •  Maryville Continue Reading

Did ‘hobbit’ people go extinct earlier than we thought?

Strange human fossils unearthed over a decade ago on Indonesia's island of Flores revealed the existence of an ancient, petite species of human, dubbed Homo floresiensis and nicknamed "hobbits."At the time, researchers said that the unique, extinct, 3.5-foot-tall human may have lived as recently as 18,000 years ago, perhaps even 13,000 to 11,000 years ago. This would have made the newfound species the last remaining human other than Homo sapiens. But now those dates have been revised. A new study argues those fossils are actually between 100,000 and 60,000 years old.The cause of the confusion? Erosion. Researchers date fossils like those of H. floresiensis by determining how long sediment has been covering specimens. Some layers around these fossils had eroded, making it seem as though the specimens had been deposited much more recently, say a team of scientists whose revised chronology was published Wednesday in the journal Nature."The initial excavations were sampling very small areas," says study author Matthew W. Tocheri, a researcher at the Smithsonian's Human Origins Program, in a phone interview with The Christian Science Monitor. "You don't get to see the full picture."It's a lot like putting together a puzzle, says Dr. Tocheri, who also teaches anthropology at Canada's Lakehead University. "If you only pull out two pieces and try to fit them together, a lot of the time the pictures that you make from that are going to be very different than after you've pulled out 15 or 20 pieces of the puzzle."And researchers have been pulling out more puzzle pieces over the past decade.Ever since H. floresiensis skeletons and stone tools were first found at the Liang Bua cave on Flores, archaeologists have been searching for more fossils. The cave is quite large, Tocheri says, so scientists had a lot of ground to cover. As excavations continued, it became clear that there was some sort of boundary in the sediment right around the layer in which the initial Continue Reading

Fresno gunman accused of killing four in racially motivated shootings shouts ‘let black people go’ in court

The gunman accused of killing four people in racially motivated shootings in Fresno shouted "let black people go" during a brief court appearance on Friday. Authorities say Kori Ali Muhammad killed unarmed security guard Carl Williams at a Motel 6 on April 13, and then fatally shot three other white men at random on Tuesday. Muhammad said Williams had shown him disrespect while the suspect was visiting a woman at the motel, according to police. "Kori Muhammad is not a terrorist," Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer said, according to NBC News. "But he is a racist, and he is filled with hate." As he entered the courtroom on Friday, Muhammad shouted that natural disasters striking America will increase. During the short hearing, he shouted "let black people go" and a phrase similar to "in reparations" that was not clearly enunciated. Muhammad, 39, was charged Thursday in the slaying of Williams. He is expected to eventually face murder charges for all four killings, but authorities are waiting for investigators to build their case. The suspect allegedly shot a Pacific Gas & Electric worker sitting in a truck and two men who had come out of a nearby building. He fired 17 rounds in less than two minutes on Tuesday, and was arrested less than five minutes after the shooting began. It is believed that victims Zackary Randalls, Mark Gassett and David Jackson were not known to the gunman. Muhammad has a deep criminal history, according to the Fresno Bee, including weapons and drug convictions. He was shipped to federal prison in 2006 after pleading guilty to possession with the intent to distribute crack cocaine, the newspaper reported. He is facing life in prison, and is next due in court on May 12. With News Wire Services Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

Céline Dion talks about her husband’s death, said she used the movie ‘Up’ to tell her children that he was gone — ‘You have to let people go, I feel at peace’

Céline Dion used a heartwarming tale to help mend her children’s broken hearts. The iconic singer told ABC that she used the movie “Up” to explain to her three kids that their father was gone. “The only thing I wanted is for them to say up,” Dion said of when her children would ask where their "Papa" was. She said her children finally understood that their father went “up” and then they went outside and released balloons and pixie dust into the sky. Dion’s husband René Angélil, 73, passed away from throat cancer four months ago and the singer told People that she’s trying to stay strong for her three kids. “I miss him a lot from when he was great but not when he was suffering,” she said. “I cannot be selfish. You have to let people go. I feel at peace." Angélil was diagnosed with throat cancer in 1999 and Dion cared for her husband since then taking multiple breaks from her singing career, according to People. Her husband served as both her manager and mentor. "It's been a long, long journey," Dion said. The two had been married for 21 years and had three children, René-Charles, 15, and twins Nelson and Eddy, 6. They first met in Montreal when the singer was just 12. In an interview with ABC News, Dion spoke of her last moment with her husband where she told him to just go in peace. “I promise you we're gonna be okay. Please leave in peace,” she said. “I don't want you to worry.” The star will receive the Icon award at Sunday’s Billboard Music Awards where she will cover Queen’s “The Show Must Go on.” She added, “René always insisted the show must go on.” Continue Reading

Movie reviews: ‘My Best Enemy,’ ‘Clandestine Childhood,’ ‘Let My People Go’

MY BEST ENEMY — 3 stars World War II thriller about former childhood friends (1:46). Not rated: Disturbing themes. In German with subtitles. IFC. A strong central performance overcomes some clumsy plotting in this German thriller from Wolfgang Murnberger. Moritz Bleibtreu (“Run Lola Run”) can always be counted on to infuse some interesting shades into a story, and so he does as Victor Kaufmann, a Jewish art dealer in 1938 Vienna. His parents are rich enough to trust in their own safety, even after the appearance of ominous signs, like the Star of David spray-painted outside their gallery. When Victor’s best friend, Rudi (Georg Friedrich), tells the Nazis about the family’s Michelangelo sketch, they must think quickly to save themselves. The script relies on too many unlikely twists, but Bleibtreu manages to sell them all. CLANDESTINE CHILDHOOD — 3 stars An Argentine child must hide his parents’ anarchism in 1979 (1:50). Not rated: Violence, disturbing images. In Spanish with subtitles. Lincoln Plaza, Quad. Writer/director Benjamin Avila based this urgent coming-of-age story on his own experiences in 1970s Argentina. As the son of activists, 12-year-old Juan (Teo Gutierrez Romero) has watched his parents spend years planning to overthrow the country’s post-Peron government. But until they set their task in motion, he didn’t realize the extreme sacrifices required from the entire family. Avila has a tough task, visualizing violent and complicated events through a child’s eyes. The calmer scenes are staged in staid and somewhat clunky fashion, but the graphic animation depicting the worst moments is starkly effective. LET MY PEOPLE GO — 1 star Farce about a quirky Jewish family in Paris (1:26). Not rated: Sexuality, violence. In French with subtitles. Quad. It would appear that for his first feature, Mikael Buch wanted to leave nothing to chance. So he threw Continue Reading

Illinois lawmaker explodes in anger on statehouse floor; quotes Moses from biblical film, ‘Let my people go!’ (VIDEO)

A Republican Illinois state lawmaker blew his top on the statehouse floor on Tuesday, unleashing a frothing tirade that would have made Howard Beale blush. Rep. Mike Bost (R-Murphysboro) tossed a copy of a Democratic-led pension reform bill in the air in disgust, complaining that the bill had arrived on the house floor before lawmakers had a chance to read it. “I'm sick of it!” a red-faced Bost screamed, according to footage posted on YouTube. “These damn bills that come out here all the damn time, come out here at the last second! I’ve got to try to figure out how to vote for my people? You should be ashamed of yourselves!” The bill — officially Senate Bill 1673 — was approved by a state pension committee just a few hours before it arrived on the floor for debate, according to local reports. The bill included a plan to shift the burden of the state’s pension costs from Chicago residents to suburban and downstate districts, a plan the Republicans oppose, the Herald & Review newspaper reported. Bost went after Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan for submitting the bill at the 11th hour, and slammed the legislature for giving him too much power. “I feel like somebody trying to be released from Egypt! Let my people go!” Bost bellowed, quoting Moses from the 1965 Charlton Heston Epic “The Ten Commandments.” “My God, they sent me here to vote for them!” he said, referring to his constituents. Bost ended the rant by slapping the microphone away and slumping in his chair. A vote on SB 1673 was expected on Wednesday. In a radio interview after the video of the event went viral, Bost said that several state Democrats called him to complain about Madigan. “When I left the floor, many Democrats from around the state, even Chicago Democrats, came in and said, ‘We want to say this but we can’t,’ because such power controls Continue Reading

With less people going on unemployment near year’s end, people have high hopes for 2011

Far fewer people are applying for unemployment benefits as the year ends, raising hopes for a healthier job market next year. Applications are at their lowest level since July 2008, the Labor Department said yesterday. They fell to 388,000 in the week ending Dec. 25, bringing the four-week average to 414,000. Until mid-October, the four-week average had been stuck above 450,000 most of the year. The number of people applying for unemployment benefits often predicts where the job market will go over the next few months - so much so that economists use this data to help forecast economic growth. "We're starting to see a pickup in job growth," said Conference Board economist Kenneth Goldstein. "We may even get to a point, conceivably by spring, where the consumer is going to say that it no longer feels like we're still in a recession." He expects the economy to generate 100,000 to 150,000 jobs a month by spring, up from an average 86,500 a month in 2010. That's an improvement, but still not enough to cause big drop in the unemployment rate. To Paul Kasriel, chief economist at Northern Trust, fewer people applying for unemployment benefits suggests the unemployment rate will slip from 9.8% last month to 9.7% early next year; that would mean about 150,000 fewer unemployed. Still, signs of easing such as fewer layoffs are popping up. In October, 1.7 million people were laid off or fired - the lowest figure since August 2006, more than a year before the Great Recession started. Layoffs and dismissals peaked at 2.6 million in January of last year. "We've stopped the losses, and things are kind of turning around," says Mark Christiansen, deputy director of the Workforce Development Center in Riverside, Calif., which has one of the nation's highest unemployment rates. What's more, job vacancies are expected to open up next year. A survey released this month by the Business Roundtable found that 45% of big company CEOs planned to add jobs over the next six Continue Reading

More people going hungry than ever before, United Nations agency reports

ROME — More than a billion people — a sixth of the world's population — are now hungry, a historic high due largely to the global economic crisis and stubbornly high food prices, a U.N. agency said Friday. Compared with last year, there are 100 million more people who are hungry, meaning they consume fewer than 1,800 calories a day, the Food and Agriculture Organization said. Almost all the world's undernourished live in developing countries, where food prices have fallen more slowly than in the richer nations, the report said. Poor countries need more aid and agricultural investment to cope, it said. "The silent hunger crisis, affecting one-sixth of all of humanity, poses a serious risk for world peace and security," said the agency's Director-General Jacques Diouf. Officials presenting the new estimates in Rome sought to stress the link between hunger and peace, noting that soaring prices for staples, such as rice, triggered riots in the developing world last year. "Food security is one of our most critical peace and security issues of our time," said Josette Sheeran of the World Food Program, another U.N. food agency based in Rome. "A hungry world is a dangerous world," she told reporters. Hunger increased despite strong cereal production in 2009, and a mild retreat in food prices from the highs of mid-2008. However, average prices at the end of last year were still 24 percent higher in real terms than in 2006, FAO said. The global economic crisis has compounded the problem for people who must now deal with pay cuts or job losses. Individual countries have also lost flexibility in handling price fluctuations, as the crisis has made tools such as currency devaluation less effective. The report said the urban poor would likely be hit hardest as foreign investment declines and demand for exports drops, and millions would return to the countryside, which could put pressure on rural communities and resources. Globally there are Continue Reading

Let all my people go

As a Cuban-American, President Obama’s lifting this week of Bush’s cruel travel restrictions for Cuban families is good news — at least for half of me. The Cuban part is delighted to be able to visit relatives at least once a year, instead of every three years, and to send help when needed. The American part feels cheated. Why can’t my non-Cuban friends visit the island of my birth to see for themselves what I’ve been talking about for 48 years? You tell me. With our American passports, they — and I — can travel anywhere, even to Axis of Evil countries but not to a neighboring island that has done nothing to us, except send hundreds of thousands of people who, for the most part, have become successful, model citizens and contributed a great deal to this country. What are we afraid of? That Cuba, as a Miami Herald blogger puts it, "swamps the used car market with their abundance of 1950s Chevys?" So, forgive my lukewarm jubilation. To make it complete, and make me whole, I want more. In fact, I want it all. Let Congress lift that ridiculous, ineffective embargo that belongs in the Cold War Games Museum, along with the CIA’s dirty tricks, such as trying to make Fidel Castro’s beard fall off, and invasions planned by the Keystone Kops. Unfortunately, it looks like lifting the embargo for good is not in the cards right now. Winning the Cuban-American vote in Florida is still important to all politicians — although it’s mostly a waste of time for Democrats because the majority of that voting bloc is Republican. It’s too bad that a foreign policy issue has been held hostage by a domestic lobby for almost 50 years. But hope springs eternal for a second Obama administration to end the embargo and bring Cuban-American relations into the 21st century. Meanwhile, let all my people go and visit. I am encouraged by all the talk about Cuba as Obama heads to the Summit of the Americas this weekend Continue Reading