Monday, December 21, 2009

2009 Annual Report on Homeless Deaths

HUFF Photo: Hundreds line up for a free, Thanksgiving meal at the Vets Hall in Santa Cruz, California, November 26, 2009

2009 Annual Report on Homeless Deaths

Summary of available data on homeless deaths

in Santa Cruz County

For the period December 21, 2008 – December 20, 2009

Santa Cruz County Homeless Persons’ Health Project (HPHP)

A program of the County Health Services Agency, Division of Public Health


On December 21, 1999, homeless individuals, community and family members, and homeless service providers held the first memorial service to honor individuals in Santa Cruz County who had died while homeless during the past year. Names of individuals to be memorialized were collected through an informal process and came from several sources, including records of HPHP, other homeless service organizations, and individuals in the community. At that time, no organization maintained a centralized record of homeless deaths. In years since, the annual effort to track homeless deaths in the county has been formalized and made routine.

The 2009 report and homeless memorial service marks our community’s eleventh year of collecting data, reporting on homeless deaths across the county and holding a service.

How data on homeless deaths are collected:

Throughout the year, a public health nurse at HPHP maintains a log of deaths occurring among homeless people in Santa Cruz County. The log includes information on confirmed deaths of HPHP clients, as well as confirmed reports of deaths received from other homeless service organizations, medical providers, and friends or family members of those who have died. The log also includes death certificate data compiled by the County Office of Vital Statistics, and data obtained from the County Public Administrator’s office.

The data available from this process most likely under-represent the number of homeless deaths in the county. Housing status at the time of death is neither well documented nor always easily determined. Also, information on likely factors leading to death is imprecise, and is often unknown at the time of death. For the sake of summarizing the information, we have assigned a single primary contributing factor to each death, but in many cases, there are multiple significant factors that have contributed to an individual’s death.

For this reason the data provided in this summary should not be interpreted as a definitive accounting of deaths among the homeless population in our county. Instead, this reflects our best effort at this time to collect and analyze accurate data on homeless deaths in a way that is meaningful to homeless service providers, to friends and family of those who have died, and to people who are housed and homeless in the community at large.

Discussion of 2009 Homeless Deaths:

The total number of deaths reported this year is 47. This represents the highest total number of individuals dying while homeless since 1999. The total number of homeless deaths reported in 2008 was 20, and the average number of deaths per year over the preceding eight years (2001-2008) was 32. The average age at death for 2009 was 51. This compares to an average age of 49 at death in Santa Cruz County for homeless individuals during the previous eight-year period (2001-2008). The average age of death for all Americans is 78 and this means that homeless people in our community die nearly 30 years earlier than would otherwise be expected.

32% of the deaths are attributed to metabolic illnesses including cardiopulmonary disease, liver disease, cancer, and diabetes. Another 28% of the deaths can be attributed to the complications of acute alcohol or drug intoxication, including overdoses, aspiration pneumonia, and GI bleeds. 21% of the deaths were caused by acute trauma, including four cases of a motor vehicle striking a pedestrian or bicyclist, four cases of suicide, and one homicide. 17% of the deaths are associated with infections, including pneumonia. We estimate that alcohol use or addiction was a contributing factor in at least 29 of the 47 (62%) deaths reported this year.

Homelessness causes, complicates and exacerbates serious health problems and it leads to the premature deaths of thousands of people in our communities across our nation every year. This fact is well documented. Research in the U.S. has shown that homeless persons have up to a threefold increase in mortality when compared to the general population, (Hibbs1994). Studies document an average age of death among homeless populations that ranges from 42 to 52 years, while average life expectancy for most Americans is almost 80 (O’Connell, 2005).

About the Memorial:

Our purpose in preparing and distributing this report at this time of year is two-fold; first to honor and mark the passing of all those who were homeless and have died in our community during the last year, and second, to document and increase awareness of the serious negative impact of homelessness on the lives of our fellow community members.

Our memorial service includes a reading of the names of the forty-seven people reflected in this report, and also the names of formerly homeless individuals, now housed, who died during the year. We also continue our tradition started last year of creating and displaying homeless memorial flags with the names, ages and year of death for each homeless or previously homeless person who died since December 21, 1998. This year that eleven-year total will exceed 400 people.

Nearly all of the people who died were personally known to one of us at HPHP, or to one of our colleagues at homeless service organizations throughout the county. We are saddened by their deaths, and each will be missed. We hope this information will serve to honor their memory, to guide us in our ongoing efforts to improve the health and quality of life for people while they are homeless, and to recommit ourselves as a community to ending homelessness in Santa Cruz County.


DECEMBER 21, 2008 - DECEMBER 20. 2009



Male: 39

Female: 8

3) AGE:

under 21 -- 0

41-50 -- 14

21-30 -- 3

51-60 -- 18

31-40 -- 4

over 60 -- 8

4) RACE:

White: 38

Hispanic 8

Black: 1


- Outside/Vehicle: 21

- Hospital: 16

- Nursing Facility 6

- Temporary Residence 4

- Santa Cruz 31

- Watsonville 10

- North County 2

- Mid-County 4



- cardiopulmonary 6

- liver/kidney disease 3

- cancer 3

- diabetes 2

- intracranial bleed 1


- overdose 6

- aspiration pneumonia 3

- GI Bleed 2

- arrhythmia 1

- asphyxia 1


- vehicular 4

- suicide 4

- fall 1 -

- homicide 1


- pneumonia 4

- sepsis 3

- meningitis 1


HUFF Xmas Carols

The following lyrics were written by Robert Norse, Becky Johnson, Joseph Schultz, and Valerie Christy. Two of the songs were sung by HUFF members during the 2009 Holiday Parade amid some controversy. Enjoy! --- Becky Johnson, Editor


You better not sit, you better not beg,
you better not chalk, or drink from a keg,
Sgt. Harms is coming downtown!

He's making a list, he's checking it twice
poor folks are naughty and rich folks are nice
Sgt Harms is coming downtown!

He knows if you have warrants
He knows who are the bums
He knows if you play hacky-sack
or feed the birds bread crumbs

You better just shop,'cause nothings for free.
You better be white and have an I.D.
Sgt Harms is coming Downtown!

You better not sleep, nor linger too long
nor dare to sit down while singing this song...
Sgt. Harms is coming downtown!

He knows if you're suspicious
Or hanging out while poor,
Don't beg a dime after dark downtown
You'll get tickets by the score!

The benches are gone
Get out of the parks
Don't sit in your car
Be gone after dark
Sgt. Harms is coming Downtown!

God Bless ye Merry Gentlemen

God Bless ye Merry Gentlemen
but not in Santa Cruz!
Mayor Rotkin has a Sleeping Ban
he'll cite you if you snooze
and if you're warm beneath your quilts
your blankets you shall lose
Bad tidings, not comfort or joy,
comfort or joy
Bad tidings NOT comfort or joy

The sidewalks are for business use, so don't delay or sit!
We've friendly cops with ticket books, three hundred bucks a hit.
They'll show up fast in squads of three as fast as you can spit.

Sad tidings, not comfort or joy, comfort or joy!
Sad tidings, not comfort of joy.

Yet this was made for all of us and not just for the rich
Watch out for "hosts" who prowl the street all smiling as they snitch.
And if you're mad, then just be glad, you know which way is which.

Mad tidings, not comfort or joy comfort or joy,
Mad tidings not comfort or joy.

In Santa Cruz we often fight for peace throughout the world
Discrimination isn't us, just keep your bedroll furl'd
Progressive politics with anti-poor laws here are swirled

Bad tidings, not comfort or joy, comfort or joy
Bad tidings, not comfort or joy


Oh come all ye shoppers
with creditcards and checkbooks
and bank cards and bills and coins and
lay-away accounts
Come and buy new stuff
although you don't need it
Because you must have it
Because you must have it
Because you must have it and
right now!


Away on Vacation no time for the poor
Says Mayor Mike Rotkin "No Sleep for the poor"
For thousands of homeless it's a crime just to sleep
the police will harass you in your car on the street

We love all our homeless
they even get mail
but sit, beg, or sleep and they'll wind up in jail
It's Christmas time now, time to buy lots of stuff
Your pain frightens shoppers, so the cops will get tough

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Mayo Clinic Study shows children hospitalized 3X more AFTER flu vaccine

NOTE TO READER: I have been an opponent of inject-able vaccines for a number of years ever since I learned at a UCSC class on public health that the CDC data for incidences all cases of 9 major infectious diseases in the past century were largely unaffected by the introduction of a vaccine. This was true for small pox, polio, and measles alike. For example, the polio epidemic was already in steep decline by the time the vaccine was introduced. I became a skeptic at that point, and stopped vaccinating my children. (I'm a bit of a hypocrite, because I still vaccinate my cat!!). Robert Kennedy Jr. lobbied on behalf of a group of parents whose children suffer from autism. They claim that the vaccinations were the cause. To vaccinate or not is a serious choice, to which reasonable people might disagree. My older sister stopped vaccinating her children, but suffered a bout of whooping cough in her family. All survived without long term effects. Below is an article from Science Daily which reports the results of a Mayo Clinic study which posted results that should have been main headlines in May of 2009, but somehow weren't.

-- Becky Johnson, editor

Children Who Get Flu Vaccine Have Three Times Risk Of Hospitalization For Flu, Study Suggests

found at:

ScienceDaily (May 20, 2009) — The inactivated flu vaccine does not appear to be effective in preventing influenza-related hospitalizations in children, especially the ones with asthma. In fact, children who get the flu vaccine are more at risk for hospitalization than their peers who do not get the vaccine, according to new research that will be presented on May 19, at the 105th International Conference of the American Thoracic Society in San Diego.

Flu vaccine (trivalent inactivated flu vaccine—TIV) has unknown effects on asthmatics.

"The concerns that vaccination maybe associated with asthma exacerbations have been disproved with multiple studies in the past, but the vaccine's effectiveness has not been well-established," said Avni Joshi, M.D., of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. "This study was aimed at evaluating the effectiveness of the TIV in children overall, as well as the children with asthma, to prevent influenza-related hospitalization."

The CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommend annual influenza vaccination for all children aged six months to 18 years. The National Asthma Education and Prevention Program (3rd revision) also recommends annual flu vaccination of asthmatic children older than six months.

In order to determine whether the vaccine was effective in reducing the number of hospitalizations that all children, and especially the ones with asthma, faced over eight consecutive flu seasons, the researchers conducted a cohort study of 263 children who were evaluated at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota from six months to 18 years of age, each of whom had had laboratory-confirmed influenza between 1996 to 2006. The investigators determined who had and had not received the flu vaccine, their asthma status and who did and did not require hospitalization. Records were reviewed for each subject with influenza-related illness for flu vaccination preceding the illness and hospitalization during that illness.

They found that children who had received the flu vaccine had three times the risk of hospitalization, as compared to children who had not received the vaccine. In asthmatic children, there was a significantly higher risk of hospitalization in subjects who received the TIV, as compared to those who did not (p= 0.006). But no other measured factors—such as insurance plans or severity of asthma—appeared to affect risk of hospitalization.

"While these findings do raise questions about the efficacy of the vaccine, they do not in fact implicate it as a cause of hospitalizations," said Dr. Joshi. "More studies are needed to assess not only the immunogenicity, but also the efficacy of different influenza vaccines in asthmatic subjects."

Sunday, December 6, 2009

SENTINEL accuses HUFF of "crashing" Holiday Parade

by Becky Johnson

December 6, 2009

Santa Cruz, Ca. -- Homeless United for Friendship & Freedom participated in the Human Rights Fair at Louden Nelson Community Center for the 2nd year in a row. This year, Robert Norse received an e-mail from the organizers of the event inviting HUFF to participate in the Holiday parade. We were told we would be marching with the United Nations Association of Santa Cruz County and were told where and when to gather.

Here is the text of the e-mail Robert Norse received after contacting the UN Association of Santa Cruz County stating HUFF's intention of participating in the Human Rights Fair.

Subject: second part of Instructions
Date: Sun, 22 Nov 2009 13:53:35 -0800

Instructions for Booths

Thank you for participating in our Second Annual Human Rights Fair. I am enclosing a copy of all the events that weekend. Also enclosed is the list of the booths in the three rooms.

Louden Nelson Center is open on Saturday Dec. 5 at 9 am. You can get a parking permit at the office if you need to leave your car more than two hours.

Please have your booth set up by 11 am and close up at 5.45 since we need to clean up.

There will be a Human Rights contingent in the Holiday Parade under the auspices of the United Nations
Association near the beginning of the parade. Please join us if you can. The Fair officially opens at 11:30 am.
There will be plenty of inexpensive delicious food made by Heavenly Nibbles in room 3.

If your organization is marked with an asterisk, it means we have not received your check. If there is a question mark , we have not had a confirmation from you and you may lose your table.
Please send your check to UNA % Pat Arnold 181 Branciforte Ridge Santa Cruz 950065. Call me at 425-7618 if these instructions are not clear.

On the morning of the parade, eight HUFF members assembled wearing winter clothing, scarves and earmuffs to have a carolers look. Our plan was to sing Christmas Carols which we had rewritten to have a local theme. HUFF has done this in the past, with such favorites as "Away on Vacation" "Joy to the World, its time to shop," but this year we added "Sgt. Harms is coming downtown." Robert Norse wore his dress bathrobe in solidarity with homeless people who must perform their toiletries in public places, and sporting a teddy bear, walked up and down the crowds passing out HUFF flyers.

As we entered the parade, Chip, the Executive Director of the Downtown Association approached us telling us that we weren't allowed in the parade. Robert explained that we had indeed been invited and that we were a paid participant later that day at the United Nations Association of Santa Cruz County's Human Rights Fair at Louden Nelson Center. Chip backed of and let us pass.

Shortly into the parade, a yellow "thing" pulled in line behind us. It was driven by a man dressed as Santa Claus and had the words "Caterpillar" in black on the passenger-side front end. The driver repeatedly gunned his engine causing excessive noise and car exhaust to fill the parade route. One HUFF members walked back and asked the driver to stop as the fumes he was generating were aggravating his asthma. The Santa-driver just smiled and waved and kept doing it.

We sang the same two songs over and over again while "Vision Song" Valerie Christy played guitar. The other song we sang was "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, but not in Santa Cruz" which included these new lyrics by Joe Schultz:

"In Santa Cruz we often fight for peace throughout the world,
Discrimination isn't us, just keep your bedroll furl'd,

Progressive politics with anti-poor laws swirled,
---Bad tidings, not comfort or joy, comfort or joy...."

As we passed Soquel Ave., a woman in a tee-shirt with a "I (heart) the Santa Cruz Police" bumper sticker plastered across her belly, pulled along side of us. She had a megaphone in her hand and she matched her pace with us singing very loudly and very badly into her megaphone. Between stanzas of "Santa Claus is coming to town"she enthusiastically shouted "I love the Santa Cruz Police Department!! Oooowhh!" At first I kept pace with her and sang OUR song side by side, but she quickly outdistanced me (I was still getting over a flu, so my lungs weren't in the best of shape). So I hung back and sang two lines for every clump of parade watchers. I wasn't filming anymore, just letting the camera pick up the sound.

Since she had drowned out our voices, I just wanted them to hear a little bit of what had been singing. Words that apparently had to be censored, harassed, and drowned out.

"The sidewalks are for business use, so don't delay or sit!
We've friendly cops with ticket books, three hundred bucks a hit"

Your browser is not able to display this multimedia content.

Video by Becky Johnson, edited by Rick.

Later, en route to the Louden Nelson Center where the HUFF table was set up, I sighted the new Penguin sculptures on Pacific Ave. I immediately understood why Ryan Coonerty had pushed to have a new ordinance forbidding sitting, begging, setting up a political table, or playing music for donations within 10 feet of a statue. At the time, I had shook my head at the idiocy of it. I mean a real, live musician playing in the downtown is forever silenced to acquiesce to the possible need of a passerby to gaze at a stony statue unobstructed? When I found out the entire downtown was being used as gallery space for a for-profit gallery, and that sculptures were being installed up and down the avenue, I realized that this was art being used as a tool of social cleansing, via our own Redevelopment Agency.

I resolved to organize a boycott of the artists whose work is displayed downtown.

Many different groups set up a booth as part of the Human Rights Fair. We gathered signatures on petitions, and shared Chai, hot chocolate, and 7-11 Cappuccino, and signed up people for our HUFF yahoogroups mailing list.

Ruth Hunter, longtime social justice activist and peace worker greeted most folks by the door. In 1997, Hunter supported HUFF's effort to put repeal of the Sleeping Ban onto the ballot for a citywide election. Despite endorsements by SCAN, WILPF, the UN Association of Santa Cruz County, the effort fell short of the necessary 10% of verified signatures needed to qualify for the ballot.

When American Civil Liberties Union member, Mayor Mike Rotkin spoke on behalf of the ACLU, HUFF members watched and listened. Later when Rotkin sat down in the audience to listen to the remaining speakers, Robert Norse and Curbhugger Chris joined him with signs about the Sleeping Ban. He didn't stay long.

We talked to many who came to the Human Rights Fair. Most of those who came and talked to us had nothing but positive things to say about the work HUFF does to affect the City's homeless policies. Around 5PM, Robert Norse spoke to the remaining audience members and 4 HUFF members joined him to sing our songs one more time, this time without being drowned out by megaphones or revving engines. The audience loved it!

On December 6th, I read in the SENTINEL the following passage in an article entitled "Holiday Parade brings cheer to downtown Santa Cruz" by Alia Wilson:

"Adding to the Santa Cruz flavor, members of the Homeless United for Friendship and Freedom group crashed the event to protest the downtown sleeping ban. The eight protesters passed out fliers as they strolled Pacific Avenue, but many families did not take note of the display as the sounds of the parade filled the air.

"At some point, they were complaining they couldn't sing, that they weren't allowed to and that it was against human rights," Krista Lazier of Santa Cruz said. "It seems like their message could have fit with the parade but it was odd."

HUFF did not "crash" the parade, per the e-mail posted above. And the "sounds of the parade" were the gunning of a motor and a woman with a megaphone trying to shout us down!" So that way, the SENTINEL makes us the culprits when they should have portrayed us as the victims. So much for the newspaper of record!!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Iran bans largest newspaper for photo of Baha'i Temple

PHOTO: Baha'i Temple in Haifa, Israel photo courtesy of

NOTE TO READER: If the State of Israel had banned the Jerusalem Post for publishing a photograph of the Baha'i Temple in Haifa, Israel, the leftists would be up in arms, charging censorship, government oppression, and would accuse the government of violating the right of the people to freedom of the press. Instead we hear a deafening silence. ---Becky Johnson, editor

Iran bans paper for running photo of Baha'i temple

TEHRAN, Iran — Iranian authorities have banned the country's largest-circulation newspaper for publishing a photo of a Baha'i temple, state media reported Monday.

Iran's Shiite cleric-led regime views the Baha'i religion as heretical and has banned it since the 1979 revolution. The photo also gave Iran's leaders an opportunity to silence the Hamshahri daily, which mostly reports on social issues but which has been critical of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Ahmadinejad's June re-election has been challenged by opposition activists and others who say massive fraud deprived the hard-line president's main pro-reform challenger of victory. Since then, the government has crushed street demonstrations, closed critical media outlets and silenced reformists with a mass trial.

Hamshahri was ordered closed by the Press Supervisory Board, a government agency run by hard-liners, for printing an advertisement containing a photo of a Baha'i temple that encourages tourists to visit the shrine, the official IRNA news agency reported.

PHOTO: The photo banned was of the Baha'i temple in New Delhi, which is in the shape of a lotus, and was on an advertisement paid for by an Indian travel agency encouraging tourism to India. The "Lotus Temple" was built in 1986 and receives 3 million visitors per year. Photo courtesy of

The newspaper's director, Ali Reza Mahak, said he has received no order to close and was preparing to publish Hamshahri's Tuesday edition. But Deputy Culture Minister Mohammad Ali Ramin later confirmed to Iran's state TV that Hamshahri has been ordered closed.

The IRNA report said legal authorities would investigate the newspaper, which is run by Tehran's municipality and supports the capital's mayor, Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf, a moderate conservative who has long been a rival of Ahmadinejad.

Iran's hard-line judiciary has shut down more than 120 pro-reform newspapers and jailed dozens of editors and writers on vague charges of insulting authorities since 2000.

The closure order was also a message to Iran's estimated 300,000 Baha'is.

Authorities have launched periodic crackdowns against Baha'i followers, and state-run media often run articles denouncing the religion, which was founded in the 1860s by Baha'u'llah, a Persian nobleman considered a prophet by the Baha'is.

Islam considers Muhammad to be the last of the prophets.

Iran had been the cradle of the Baha'i faith in the middle of the 19th century. But it has not been recognized in the Iranian constitution as a religious minority since the 1979 revolution toppled the pro-U.S. Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and brought hard-line clerics to power.

Seven Baha'i leaders have been in jail since May 2008 on charges of endangering national security for allegedly proselytizing. Leaders of the minority faith, however, say they are being persecuted by Iran's government for their religious beliefs.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Robert Norse: City Council silencing dissenting voices

NOTE TO READER: Longtime homeless activist, Robert Norse, published the following Op-Ed in the Sunday edition of the Santa Cruz Sentinel. Norse was responding to two recent defeats in court in which his appeal was turned down. In the first case, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, turned down Norse's bid to sue the Mayor and City Council members in Federal court for violating his civil rights when they arrested him for a brief, silent hand gesture for "disrupting a public meeting." Norse was arrested but all charges were dropped. Norse has filed for a re-hearing or an en banc hearing of the 9th Circuit Court. City Attorney John Barisone has claimed that his office has already spent $114,000.00 in legal costs through legal maneuvers to prevent an actual trial being held on the facts. ---- Becky Johnson, editor

Robert Norse: City Council silencing dissenting voices

Posted: 11/22/2009 01:30:26 AM PST

When courts support police misconduct and government repression, what can the public do? Two recent court decisions have brought this issue home to me sharply and personally.

The Sentinel inaccurately covered both cases. In one, I challenged two false arrests by the Santa Cruz City Council, including a brief don't act like Nazis salute shown in detail here.

In the second, a Metro bus station security guard insisted I leave the property because I'd pulled out a tape recorder after he accosted me and refused to identify himself.

Photo: Robert Norse interviews Metro Security Guard, Dan Delgadillo for Free Radio Santa Cruz on Nov 26 2008. Photo by Becky Johnson.

In both cases, courts ruled against me audio here and here ; fast forward to the relevant sections; transcript found here .

I offended politicians and police in both cases, but broke no laws. The Metro case is still being appealed, but poor and homeless people there are still being harassed with no police accountability.

Photo: The same security guard who refused to identify himself the day he had Norse arrested for trespassing at the Metro Transit Center, provided his card and allowed it to be photographed. Photo by Becky Johnson

The City Council has gone so far as to prohibit audience booing but not cheering. How far can our City Council going threatening, expelling, even arresting members of the public when their criticism offends but doesn't actually disrupt? This was the issue in my court case which we are now appealing to a higher panel.

Only one council member even noticed my brief silent political gesture of condemnation. Is it then a real disruption? Or was the arrest an attempt to punish ? Wasn't Councilman Tim Fitzmaurice's insistence on stopping the meeting itself the actual disruption? If I'd held up a sign instead saying don't act like a Nazi, would the Council have been equally justified in throwing me out? This is the issue a jury would have decided. I am still fighting these cases.

PHOTO: Councilmember Tim Fitzmaurice July 26, 2005 Photo by Becky Johnson.

The District Attorney knew a bad case when he saw one. I was arrested, jailed, but never charged. I then sued for false arrest. Two weeks later I and others made the same Nazi salute again, explaining it was neither pro-Nazi nor disruptive but rather an expression of outrage at abusive City Council process. The Council made no arrests.

Nationally, Bush's unlawful enemy combatants are now Obama's underprivileged enemy belligerents They face the same kangaroo military commissions. They are held in the same secret camps after being kidnapped, held without charges, and tortured year after year.

PHOTO: The main sign in front of the Metro Center which Norse was cited for failing to move away from. Photo by Becky Johnson Nov 26 2008.

Locals driven into homelessness by the economy face new Council-concocted anti-homeless laws. Benches are disappearing from Pacific Avenue under pressure from NIMBY groups like the Santa Cruz Neighbors and the Downtown Association. Police ticket poor people for holding up a spare change sign after dark. The city fences off another 25 seating spaces in front of New Leaf Market at the cost of thousands of dollars to stop people from sitting on the edge of the planter. The city attorney justifies a citywide outdoor sleeping ban that makes homeless people criminals. L.A. and San Diego have suspended their sleeping bans.

PHOTO: Warning sign at the Metro Center which is not in front of the large sign in front where Norse was cited for failing to move away from. Photo by Becky Johnson Nov 26 2008

When we bring these matters to the City Council, they devise new ways of silencing the public. They move items six hours ahead to late at night, cram everything onto rushed afternoon sessions, end public comment on individual agenda items unless a council member agrees, circumvent public commissions, and malign members of the public without right of reply. Does this kind of expanded power help or hurt us?

/Robert Norse is a longtime opponent of the Santa Cruz city sleeping ban and an activist for homeless rights/

Robert Norse can be contacted at: Homeless United for Friendship & Freedom
309 Cedar St. PMB 14B --- Santa Cruz, Ca. 95060 Phone: (831) 423-HUFF

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Breast Thermography: The sensible choice

Photo courtesy of

by Becky Johnson
November 21, 2009

Santa Cruz, Ca. -- Forget mammography! It's its own scam. And it CAUSES an estimated 2 cancers for every cancer it finds, which when removed "saves" a woman's life. There is a far better choice. It can be used annually on woman beginning at age 40 and has a very low rate of false positives. And it's cheaper.

I know the buzzwords heard in liberal circles these days include some kind of outcry against recent recommendations that seem to compromise womens health, i.e. no mammograms prior to age 50. Pap smears to start at 21 instead of 18 and then only every two years. And forget self-examinations. While I can't fathom why women should be told to stop self examinations, I agree with the federal task force findings on mammograms. If mammograms are to be used, age 50 for a first look makes sense.

Tissue in younger women (ages 40 - 50) tends to be too dense to see an active cancer tumor. 15% of deadly tumors are missed under the best of conditions. Furthermore, the radiation from the x-ray does cause damage, so should be used sparingly. Establishing a baseline is warranted, but a mammogram every year starting at age 40 is not!

Finally, when a woman finds a lump through a self-examination, or a mass is detected through a mammogram, sometimes a biopsy is ordered. Nine out of ten biopsies are negative, yet there can be complications from the incision, reactions to the anesthesia, anti-biotics and other medications, infections, and of course the whole process generates stress and worry .

Fortunately there is a better way. With breast thermography, the technology looks only for active tumors. 98% of tumors are inactive, and do not need to be removed. In fact, they are best left alone and dealt with through diet, exercise, sleep and judicial use of vitamins and herbs. Active tumors have a high level of blood flow and hence generate high heat. Thermography is the perfect technology to find exactly those cancers which threaten women's lives most, and works well with women with denser breast tissue, which mammography does not.

To perform an exam, a woman is placed in a 68 degree room with her breast exposed. Additional fans are turned on which cool the breast causing blood flow to diminish in healthy tissue. Cancer tissues don't have the same neural sensory response and will not contract. The blood flow will continue, unaffected by environmental heat or cold. A thermal scanner is passed over the breast which detects heat. There is a very low rate of false positives with this method. No radiation is needed and the breast need not be crushed, so it's truly safe, unlike mammography or other x-ray techniques. The FDA approved thermography as a diagnostic tool in 1982, however in the United States, it is only used as an adjunct to mammography. However, in Canada and France, thermography is the primary tool for detection of breast cancer.

In the United States, medical establishments are heavily invested in mammography and have rejected breast thermography as a primary diagnostic method. The reasons can only be political. Huge pharmaceutical companies stand to profit from overtreating patients. Health advocates need to pressure their legislators to demand that thermography be the primary method used to detect breast cancers. Chemotherapeutic drugs mean big profits for pharmaceutical companies where the cost of an 8-week treatment period, which once cost as little as $100, now costs up to $30,000 for treatment with the newer drugs.

The American Cancer Society, a very large and respected non-profit is heavily invested in funding mammography screening clinics with pharmaceutical drug companies donations. $150 million in tax-deductible donations have already been spent and are expected to generate $100 billion in sales of chemotherapeutic drugs over the next 30 years. Unfortunately much of this treatment will be for cancers that were better off left untreated.

Soon after the United States Preventive Services Task Force, a federal advisory board recommended mammograms to begin at age 50, the ACS issued a statement opposing the recommendation. Charges of "rationing" health care and of balancing costs on women's lives have been leveled. But what is the truth?

Breast cancer is expected to kill 40,000 women in the United States this year. But the Task Force's recommendations are hardly new. In 1977, after an official of the National Cancer Institute voiced concern that women in their 40s were getting too much radiation from unnecessary screening, the National Institutes of Health concluded that most women should wait until they’re 50 to have regular screenings.

Nor have we made much progress in treatment of women who do develop breast cancer. From 1950 to 1990, there were about 28 breast cancer deaths per 100,000 people. Today, in California, 23 women per 100,000 will die from breast cancer. The lower rate can be accounted for by a reduction in the use of post-menopausal hormone therapy, and because rates for smoking tobacco have dropped. Treatment itself seems to have made little difference. Mammography screening, introduced in the 1960s, actually increased the breast cancer rate by finding cancers that would not have been found with less aggressive screenings.

The task force estimated that we would need to screen 1,900 women in their 40s for 10 years in order to prevent one death from breast cancer, and in the process these tests will have generated more than 1,000 false-positive screens and with all the over treatment they entail.

Eighty percent of the million breast biopsies performed each year in the US, because of a suspicious mammogram, are negative. Compare these results to a study conducted using breast thermal imaging. Sixty of 94 biopsies were malignant and 34 were benign. Thermal imaging identified 58 of 60 malignancies without exposing a single breast to a radioactive material.

The problem with mammography is that in trying to differentiate different types of tissue visually and structurally, 15% are missed.

"We're spending $300,000 to diagnose one cancer, "said Dr. Len Saputo, MD "And you are probably causing two cancers for every life you save." Dr. Saputo recommends a different approach to prevention and treatment of breast cancer.

"Early detection is different from prevention. We'd save 75% of the cost of healthcare" if we implemented preventative medicine.

"You always do lifestyle changes right, sleep right, exercise, then Chinese medicine, Ayurvedic medicine and homeopathy. Then vitamins and minerals. Your last choice is to go to your medical doctor for treatment."

"With 400, 000 dead per year from drugs alone and another 600,000 per year from errors and complications in medicine (iatrogenic disease), it shouldn't be your first choice," Saputo warned.

Thermography doesn't radiate the breast. It doesn't crush the breast down, which can actually spread cancers in women with active tumors. And it's been FDA approved for 27 years now.

"A company, Computerized Thermal Imaging, spent $90 million in development, and is now bankrupt," Dr. Saputo reported. He said that thermo-imaging should be used as a primary screening test, considering all the mistakes that can happen with mammograms.

As for the claim that self-exams don't work? Who knows your body better than you? Half of cancers are found by the woman.


"The High Cost of Chemotherapy"Johns Hopkins Health Alert June 19, 2007
"Who decides about mammograms? Inside the task force" by Elizabeth Landau, CNN, November 19, 2009
"Addicted to Mammograms" By ROBERT ARONOWITZ The New York Times November 19, 2009"Breast Thermography – The Mammography Alternative?" by Moshe Dekel, MD
"Effectiveness of non-invasive digital infrared thermal imaging system in the detection of breast cancer" by Nimmi Arora, M.D., Diana Martins, B.S., Danielle Ruggerios, B.S., Eleni Tousimis, M.D., Alexander J. Swistel, M. D., Michael P. Osborne, M. D., Rache M. Simmons, M.D., Department of Surgery, New York Prespyterian Hospital--Cornell, New York, NY, USA 2008
"In Reversal: Panel Urges Mammograms at 50, Not 40"by Gina Kolata New York Times Nov 16, 2009"Health and Fitness" with Joanie Greggains -- KGO radio, November 21, 2009 guest: Dr. Len Saputo, MD

Friday, November 20, 2009

Two Law Experts support Norse "Nazi" Salute Case

NOTE TO READER: This is the second article on Norse's "Nazi" salute case in which legal scholars Vikram David Amar and and Alan Brownstein analyzed the so-called "disruption" Norse caused when he gave a 1.5 second stiff-armed "salute" from the side of City Council chambers with the wrong hand. The 9th recently denied Norse the right to trial on his false arrest federal suit. The videotape in question, I shot back in 2002 when I started to film a disruption involving a homeless man named Michael Tomasi. My film begins just as Tomasi, still shouting, is exiting from the side of City Council chambers. The authors of the article refer to this as in the "back of the meeting room."

---Becky Johnson, editor

The Ninth Circuit Errs in Santa Cruz City Council Protester Case

Friday, November 20, 2009

article found online at:

In this column, we return to a case that we first wrote about over two years ago, involving a silent but pesky protester at a city council meeting who was arrested for his expressive conduct, and who then sued city officials under the First Amendment.

When we analyzed the dispute in our earlier column, the case -- Norse v. City of Santa Cruz -- was going up to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Two weeks ago, the Ninth Circuit issued its ruling, affirming a decision by the trial judge to dismiss the First Amendment claims.

The appellate ruling is somewhat disappointing; one would have hoped the Ninth Circuit would have reached a more fair-minded result and issued a more well-reasoned opinion, even if the plaintiff seems to some folks to be a bit of a pest.

The Facts of the Case

The facts of the case are pretty straightforward and -- unlike the inferences the Ninth Circuit judges drew from those facts -- largely uncontested. In 2002, Robert Norse was ejected from the audience at a Santa Cruz City Council meeting after he silently but emphatically raised his arm for one second simulating a Nazi salute.

It appears that Norse made the Nazi salute in order to protest the Mayor's decision to cut off an animated individual who was at the podium in the front of the room during the meeting's "public comment" period, but whose time had expired. As the Mayor was silencing the speaker, one or two members of the audience (but not Norse) in the rear of the room "were creating a disruption." Importantly, Norse's salute was made after the people causing the ruckus had already left the room and the arguably boisterous speaker had left the podium.

Although the Mayor had quickly moved on to other business and thus did not see Norse's sarcastic salute, a Councilmember interrupted the Mayor, told him of Norse's gesture (which Norse had made at earlier Council meetings as well, to the displeasure of the Council), and asked that the Mayor remove Norse because Norse had offended the "dignity of the body."

Norse then began to challenge the Councilmember's suggestion that he be expelled, and the Mayor immediately said to Norse: "Please leave." After Norse refused and was arrested, he filed suit arguing that the Mayor's action and the subsequent arrest violated the First Amendment.

We strongly recommend that readers view the event for themselves, using this link to YouTube.

The District Judge's Opinion and the Ninth Circuit's Affirmance

Federal district judge Ronald Whyte in San Jose dismissed the lawsuit, reasoning that cities have a "great deal of discretion" to enforce public-meeting decorum rules, provided that the rules target disruptive behavior and do not punish individuals on account of their message.

Although the Councilmember's reaction to Norse might have been based on the content of Norse's expression, Judge Whyte explained, the Mayor "was suddenly faced with a meeting that had been interrupted by an offended council member," and one in which "Norse had begun to verbally challenge" the Councilmember. Under these circumstances, Judge Whyte ruled that the Mayor's actions were permissible. In our earlier column, we argued that Judge Whyte's First Amendment analysis was flawed.

The Ninth Circuit panel, by a 2-1 vote, affirmed Judge Whyte's dismissal, on similar but slightly different reasoning from that used by Judge Whyte.

After acknowledging that decorum rules "may not be enforced in order to suppress a particular viewpoint," the Ninth Circuit majority concluded that:
"on the basis of the undisputed factual record and the videotaped proceedings, it is clear that the salute was in protest of the chair's enforcing the time limitations and in support of the disruption that had just occurred in the back of the meeting room. We [therefore] agree with the district court that the ejection was not on account of any permissible expression of a point of view. . . . The Council member who called the salute to the Mayor's attention could reasonably have interpreted it as intended to support and to further the disruption that had just been occurring in the room."

The Problems Plaguing the Ninth Circuit's Approach

We see a host of problems with the Ninth Circuit's analysis. At the outset, let us put to one side the large question whether the "disruption" bar is set too low in this case -- that is, as we asked in our earlier column, whether the First Amendment and democracy require city officials to be more thick-skinned and more tolerant of minor disorder than they were in this episode. For present purposes, we will assume that the persons in the back of the Santa Cruz City Council room really were engaged in the (significant) kind of disruption that can be prohibited and punished.

Even then, the Ninth Circuit's ruling is troubling. First, the court's conclusion that Norse's expressive action was "clear[ly] . . . in support of the disruption" is, to be blunt, hard to swallow. Norse might have been supporting the disruption; it seems more likely that he was signaling his disapproval of the way the speaker in the front of the room was being handled by the Council, regardless of whether he thought that the speaker's persistence, or the disruption in the back of the room, was legitimate. At this stage in the litigation, before a trial has occurred, all reasonable inferences are supposed to be resolved in Norse's favor. To say that it is "clear" that he was expressing himself "in support of the disruption" simply isn't plausible or fair.

The Ninth Circuit majority itself seemed to realize its overreaching here, because it later restated its point in less absolute terms, saying that "the Council Member who called the salute to the Mayor's attention could reasonably have interpreted [Norse's act] as intended to support and to further the disruption." What someone else could reasonably interpret Norse as having intended is very different from what Norse himself "clear[ly]" intended.

One Key Question: Why Did the Ninth Circuit Deem Norse's Intent To Be So Important Here?

That brings us to a second weakness of the majority opinion -- namely, its failure to explain why Norse's intent is so important in any event. Judge Tashima in his dissent argued that Norse's intent is totally irrelevant. We would not go that far. A speaker's intent sometimes has relevance in free speech cases. But the Councilmember's actual intent in ordering Norse's removal may be even more relevant to the First Amendment analysis.

Consider Norse's alleged motive first. While intent may be an important element of many offenses, it serves a special purpose when the alleged wrongdoing constitutes public speech with political content and First Amendment principles are in play. As noted constitutional scholar Kent Greenawalt has argued, in such situations government sanctions must be limited to situations in which the accused has evinced some serious intent to solicit or encourage specific wrongdoing. Permitting liability based on any intent below that level risks punishing critical or unpopular advocacy under the guise of trying to avoid unlawful consequences. Greenawalt adds that the necessary intent cannot be found unless "external facts foreclose other possible constructions" of the speaker's conduct. The facts here do not come close to satisfying that exacting standard.

Moreover, given the broad agreement among First Amendment scholars and judges that the government may not act in a viewpoint-based way, that is, it may not act in order to stifle a particular message, the intent of the Councilmember who escalated the situation would seem to be the most important state of mind into which inquiry need be made. And whether or not the Councilmember could "reasonably" have understood Norse to be "in support of" the disruption, that Councilmember actually explained his own intent behind removing Norse so that we needn't speculate about it-- he said he was intervening because he found Norse's action to be offensive "to the dignity of the body."

Notice that the Councilmember did not say that he found Norse's action to be disruptive or likely to encourage others to be disruptive. Instead, the government official responsible for ejecting Norse himself objected only to Norse's having inflicted damage to the "dignity" of the Council. That sounds a lot like a viewpoint-based motivation to us – singling Norse out because Norse's message is critical of the Council and its rules. The Councilmember's motive also problematically echoes the more general Santa Cruz decorum policy, which by its written terms is viewpoint-based in its prohibition of any "language [by a member of the public] tending to bring the Council or any Councilmember into contempt."

Thus, even if Norse did "intend to support" the disruption, such intended support of the disruptors does not appear to have been the motivation for his ejection. At a minimum, that is a factual question on which Norse should have been entitled to a trial.

Even Assuming It Was True that Norse Intended to Support and Further the Disruption that Had Occurred, What About the Fact that His Actions Carried No Significant Risk of Further Disruption?

That brings us to the third, and most interesting, question raised by the majority opinion. Suppose Norse did "intend to support and further the disruption." And suppose further (which seems unlikely) that the City Councilmember who escalated the incident and caused Norse's ejection did so because Norse had such an intent. So what? As Judge Tashima argued (and the majority never disputed), there is no way anyone could conclude without a trial (or in our view even with a trial) that Norse's conduct was, in fact, itself disruptive.

We are confronted, then, with the following question: Can a city council evict a speaker whose expression is intended to cause or further a disruption, but which in fact does not create or advance one? Can, in other words, the city punish "attempted furtherance of a disruption" the same way it can (and does) punish actual disruption?

It is not hard to imagine scenarios in which this kind of situation would raise interesting and challenging issues. Some types of expression may fall outside the First Amendment whether or not the expression brings about the harm society is trying to avoid in banning the expression. So, for example, an "attempted threat" -- where someone intends to threaten another by a phone call, but ends up dialing a wrong number, so that the listener never hears the threatening message -- might be punishable just as completed threats are.

Or imagine that Norse had intended and attempted to disrupt the meeting by talking into a megaphone while the City Council members were speaking, only to find out that the switch on his megaphone was broken. In that instance, perhaps he could be punished for what he intended and attempted.

An Analogy: The Crime of Incitement

But note that in both of the circumstances described above, the speech that was uttered (or intended to be uttered) was itself harmful or disruptive. In Norse's actual case, his salute was not inherently disruptive or injurious to the functioning of the Council. (Indeed, no one has even tried to argue that it was.) Instead, what, according to the Ninth Circuit, makes his actions punishable is their intended effect in encouraging other people to act in a disruptive way.

That is significant, for speech that creates harm in and of itself may be quite different than speech that creates harm only when it influences others to act in undesirable ways. Norse's alleged wrongdoing, if it is wrongdoing at all, must be based on his soliciting or encouraging the disruptive conduct of others.

The closest analogy in the case law to this kind of a wrongdoing concerns the crime of "incitement" -- that is, expression that is punishable because it may cause others to commit acts of violence or other unlawful deeds. Importantly, in the incitement context, the Supreme Court has made clear that the First Amendment places limits on what government may proscribe. In particular, the First Amendment requires the government to show both that the speaker intends others to act (unlawfully and imminently) on his words, and that the speech "is likely to incite or produce such action," before the speech may be punished.

In Norse's case, the Ninth Circuit never even suggested, let alone demonstrated, that Norse's salute, even if "intended" to further the disruption, was remotely likely in fact to generate more disruption. Indeed, no such suggestion would be tenable, since the people responsible for the disruption had already left the room and/or the podium at the time of the salute.

In this context, then, if Norse did intend to "support" or "further" the disruption, then his support was more abstract than inciting. And if an actual likelihood of another person acting is required by the First Amendment in the incitement context -- where the incited conduct can involve violence that is much more serious than disruption of a city council meeting -- it would seem odd at the very least that the First Amendment standard for allowing punishment could be any lower in Norse's situation.

At a minimum, the Ninth Circuit opinion needed to engage in some kind of careful analysis to support its seemingly new and more government-friendly rule here. Disappointingly, it did not. But as we all know, when your main focus is to swat a (gad)fly, you can make a mess if you're not careful.

Vikram David Amar, a FindLaw columnist, is the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Professor of Law at the University of California, Davis School of Law. He is a 1988 graduate of the Yale Law School, and a former clerk to Justice Harry Blackmun. He is a co-author, along with William Cohen and Jonathan Varat, of a major constitutional law casebook, and a co-author of several volumes of the Wright & Miller treatise on federal practice and procedure. Before teaching, Professor Amar spent a few years at the firm of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher.

Alan Brownstein is a Professor of Law and the Boochever and Bird Endowed Chair for the Study and Teaching of Freedom and Equality at the University of California, Davis, School of Law.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Signs at Metro Center Santa Cruz

by Becky Johnson
November 18, 2009

Santa Cruz, Ca. -- Robert Norse was convicted in June of "trespass" at the Metro Center in downtown Santa Cruz when he went onto the property to investigate reports that Christian religious sermons were being broadcast from the speakers there. He was convicted of trespassing when Judge Ariadne Symons ruled that he had violated a "rule" that you can't stand in front of the six foot horizontal sign in front of the Metro Center.

All photos on this page were taken November 26, 2008, shortly after Norse was cited.

And finally, here NORSE interviews on audiotape the same security guard who had him arrested previously for the same activity. The guard also did not interfere with my openly taking his photograph. Clearly, the staff had been advised of what activities can be prohibited on Metro Center property and what can't. Yet, the prosecution of Norse continuted.

He not only identified himself when asked, he showed us his id card.

Judge Ariadne Symons found Norse guilty of trespass on the public Metro Center property for blocking a sign (there are no rules prohibiting blocking the sign posted nor in any rule book governing the facility, nor did the City submit one during trial), and clearly on November 26, 2008 there was no sign posted prohibiting either standing in front of the sign, nor prohibiting making audio or video recordings at the facility.

Robert Norse through his attorney, David Beauvais attempted to appeal Norse's conviction only to have that appeal abruptly stopped when Beauvais sought a routine extension on November 17, 2009. He was denied that extension by none other than Judge Ariadne Symons who denied an appeal on her own ruling.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Ellen Cantarow: Apologist for Land Theft

PHOTO: Jerusalem as seen through the window of the Dome of the Rock, the Islamic Mosque built on top the ruins of the Jewish Temple on Israel's Temple Mount

NOTE TO READER: A close ally of mine sent me this article. It is currently published on the Counterpunch website, a site known for publishing attacks on the State of Israel and for promoting anti-semites like Stephan Pearcy and Norman Finklestein. I already published a piece about the eviction of two Arab families from properties in East Jerusalem after a protracted legal dispute was adjudicated in Israeli courts. That account can be found here. Below, I have imbedded my comments within the article to show both Cantarow's bias, where she has included misinformation, and where she commits glaring omissions. Read on for my imbedded comments. ---- Becky Johnson, editor

Heroism in a Vanishing Landscape


November 10, 2009

found online at:

"Disputed” is a word often used about East Jerusalem and homes in Sheikh Jarrah. Would the international community have considered the homes of American blacks attacked by the Ku Klux Kla as “disputed”? Or those of Jews ejected by Brown Shirts in the early 1930s?

BECKY: Did the KKK go into US courts, present evidence of ownership, win a court decision, and the legally issue an unlawful detainer?

The rule of law exists to protect the victims of war and occupation by imposing sanctions and responsibilities on invaders. It is not to be stretched for the convenience of the US at Guantanamo, Russia in Chechnya, Israel in Gaza, or in East Jerusalem. Under the law East Jerusalem and all the Arab homes it contains are part of the occupied West Bank.

BECKY: So why do E. Jerusalem Arabs vote in Israeli elections, are counted in the Israeli census, and, despite the option being available, generally shun voting in PA elections? Also, unlike Palestinians on the W. Bank and Gaza, E. Jerusalem Arabs also receive free health care from the Israeli government.

Despite endless palm-greasing, casuist apologetics, semantic distortions and brute force, Israel’s responsibilities towards the territories it occupies remain articulated in the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 and Chapter 5 of the 1907 Hague Convention IV. Occupying states are forbidden to seize the land and property of those they occupy, and forbidden to settle their citizens on occupied soil.

BECKY: Jews have lived in E. Jerusalem for thousands of years. Does Cantarow claim that no Jew should be allowed to live there? Who is she writing to? American audiences that don't know the history of the region? The property in question was owned by Jews who had their land illegally confiscated by the State of Jordan in 1948. Does Cantarow's version of "history" only start in 1953? Apparently. And all her talk about "international law" is gobbledy-gook in relation to this issue. Many, many Jews own property in E. Jerusalem and always have. It is clearly NOT against International law for Jews to own property there. As long as Israel did not displace any Palestinians, no international law has been broken.

But Israel and its US patron have small regard for legal niceties, instead preferring Thucydides’ maxim: “The strong do what they can, and the weak do what they must.”

Late afternoon, October 16, 2009. Nasser Ghawe, 46, barrel-chested, with an expressive face and a ready smile, calls out to his little girl when she strays too far down the street. “Come here, darling,” he says, scooping her up in his arms and cradling her. We’re seated on plastic chairs in the gathering dusk at one side of a street in East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood. The mother watches tiredly as Nasser talks with us.

The usual courtesy cups of strong Arabic coffee aren’t offered here; the family has none. For nearly eleven weeks they have been living on the street opposite the house that was theirs for 53 years. On August 2 Israeli soldiers threw them out; minutes later, settlers from the violent organization Kach (“Thus”, founded by the late Meir Kahane), moved in and have been there ever since.

BECKY: The Kach party was declared illegal by the Israeli government in 1994. According to the website Cantarow promotes, "...two groups of Sephardic Jewish settlers known as the Oriental Jews Association and the Knesseth Yisrael Association used documents from the Ottoman period to successfully claim FALSE ownership of the land." These Jews who took over the property were the proper owners as determined by the Israeli courts. Also, the eastern part of Jerusalem, i.e., north, south and east of the city's 1967 borders, there are today some 200,000 Jews and 270,000 Arabs living in intertwined neighborhoods. Yet Cantarow (who knows better) tries to make readers think any Jew living there is illegal.

And so the Ghawes are once again refugees, re-living a nightmare they had thought was buried in the Nakba. They watch from the street as settlers carry on life in their former home. When we visited, a guard hired by the settlers picked limes and gave them to one of the Ghawe women: “I am not against Arabs,” he said, “This is just my job.”

BECKY: An equally compelling story could have been told half a century earlier. After Jordan illegally occupied the neighborhoods of Sheikh Jarrah and Shimon HaTzadik in 1948, the land came under Jordanian control and the Jewish-owned land was handed over to the Jordanian Custodian of Enemy Property. In the mid-1950s the Jordanian government settled Arabs there. They took over the homes of the Jews and paid rent to the Jordanian Custodian. Cantarow doesn't tell readers THAT part of the history of the land and how THAT violated International law.

In 1948 Ghawe’s grandparents fled from Ein Sfarand near Lydda. Ein Sfarand was bulldozed into the ground along with over 450 other Arab villages.

BECKY: Actually, Israel set up a commission, The Guardian of Absentee Assets, which dealt with all abandoned properties. They distinguished between public land, privately-owned land, and re-patriated many Arabs with their property when they returned and petitioned to get their land back. Lands belonging to Palestinian Arab villagers in the areas taken over by Israel in 1967 generally remain in Palestinian Arab hands. To determine that these lands do not belong to anyone, the state checks the land registries, aerial photographs showing the lands to be uncultivated and then when convinced that these lands have no ownership, advertises in Arabic in the Arab newspapers that the state has declared these lands as its own and anyone having any kind of legal deed to contest this is invited to do so. If any Arab is able to produce a land deed proving the land is theirs, then the state leaves the land to the Arab. If there are still any doubts, then the issue is taken to court". But Cantarow wants readers to believe that all Arab land was confiscated and bulldozed.

Pretty national parks and kibbutzim erased any trace of the traditional Arab architecture, agriculture and the rest of life which once characterized Palestine. Hebrew names – Lod, for example, for Lydda - replaced the Arabic ones. The Ghawes fled to East Jerusalem where UNWRA (The United Nations Works Relief Agency) housed them as refugees. In 1956 they returned their refugee cards and rented a house from a local Palestinian builder.

There they stayed in peace for nearly twenty years. In the early 70s settler organizations began trying to seize the homes of the Ghawes and those of over two dozen other Sheikh Jarrah families including the Hannouns who lived down the street and around the corner.

BECKY: That is, after Israel won the 1967 war, the TRUE owners sought to regain their property in Israeli courts.

For 37 years the families staved the settlers off in court. In 2006 the Ghawes were evicted but settlers didn’t move in; the Israeli police simply put locks on the doors. The Ghawe family shattered the locks and moved back in. The Hannouns put up a website and appealed to the international community for protection. According to one of the older Hannoun children, 20-year-old Sharihan, some 1000 internationals came through to sleep in their home, in much the same way as internationals now come to help Palestinians with their harvests. (The website - – gives essential historical background.)

BECKY: Their "background history" starts in 1956!

When we visited, the Ghawe family was living on a plywood platform under an improvised roof – white sheets stitched together and strung up on poles. In the dim interior we could see mattresses and a simple bed. Children’s drawings were tacked to an improvised wall. There were also stuffed animals, a TV set on a card table, a generator, and other necessities of life – small testimonies to the family’s efforts to impose some normality in the midst of lunacy.

BECKY: This is just for propaganda purposes. At night, when the reporters and photographers have all gone home, the family goes to where they REALLY live. Indoors!

That afternoon Sheikh Jarrah looked like Williamsburg, Brooklyn – settler men strolling about in long black caftans, leggings, fur hats; settler women in long-sleeved shapeless dresses, wigs and hats. A special large enclosure had been erected for the settlers’ holiday festivities, its lights beaming across the area as dusk descended. Many baby-strollers announced a race to the finish with the arabushim. (The settlers address Israel’s “demographic problem” viscerally. Thirty years ago settlers from Gush Emunim – Bloc of the Faithful, the radical right-wing spearhead of Israel’s drive to settle the West Bank -- told me with pride that their own large families would win against the Arabs).

BECKY: And Arafat said "The womb of the Arab woman, is my strongest weapon."

In 1979 I reported from Kiryat Arba, a major Gush Emunim stronghold. A settler interviewee whispered with pride that Meir Kahane had an apartment there. For the Gush settlers, Arabs were at very least inferior. One woman said she believed in a “chain of being”: on top, Jews. Then, lesser human specimens. Then animals, vegetables, minerals. Somewhere in the lower reaches of lesser humanity were Arabs. “Let them bow their heads. If they won’t, they should leave,” was a frequent Gush statement about the untermenschen.

BECKY: 3:112 of the Koran is featured just before the pre-amble to the Hamas Foundational Covenant. It is coupled to Koranic verses 5:60 and 5:78, which describe Jews transformation into apes and swine (5:60), or simply apes, (i.e. verses 2:65 and 7:166), having been "...cursed by the tongue of David, and Jesus, Mary's son" (5:78). Judaism, by contrast, teaches that all people are "God's children" and that God loves all his children equally, Jew and gentile alike.

At that time the Gush had just established a “squat” in the former Hadassah Hospital in Hebron. Miriam Levinger, the wife of the Gush leader, Rabbi Moshe Levinger, said the squatters were there to stay. Israel let them. Israel’s US patron did nothing but continue its usual $3 billion annual largesse.

BECKY: The United States, under Jimmy Carter in 1979, helped broker the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel. As part of the deal, Israel gave up 94% of the land it acquired in the 1967 war to Egypt. In exchange, the US agreed to pay Israel $3 billion a year for their defense, and pay Egypt $2 billion a year...just because. This money has NOTHING at all to do with the above housing dispute.

Today’s visitors to central Hebron can observe the results: the central Palestinian market lies emptied and closed after years of settler pogroms. One of many hate-filled graffiti reads: ARABS TO THE GAS CHAMBERS. (For essential information about these settlers see the late Robert I. Friedman’s Zealots for Zion, Rutgers University Press, 1992, and Lords of the Land by Idith Zertal and Akiva Eldar, Nation Books, 2005, 2007).

BECKY: Hebron was an ancient Jewish City. Even the name, comes from the Hebrews. Yet Cantarow wants readers to believe the ARABS are native and the JEWS are "settlers" or invaders.

Thirty years ago Kach was considered a pariah organization. (In 1988 Israel barred Kach from elections because of Kach’s stated desire to expel all Arabs from Israel. In 1994 the US declared it a terrorist group). Gush Emunim was also considered “lunatic fringe”. But Labor and Likud alike bowed to Gush demands, enabling settlements like Gush Etzion, Kiryat Arba and Elon Moreh – the rest of Israel’s West Bank “settlements” (whole cities and red-roofed California-style suburban sprawl) followed. “The lunatic fringe” is now the mainstream, dominating Israel’s armed forces and its political life.

BECKY: Why shouldn't Jews live on the West Bank? Arab Muslims live within Israel proper.

Down the street and around the corner from the Ghawes we found the Hannoun family’s house. A line of Israeli flags fluttered triumphantly along the arch of its roof. A dark-green synthetic material hung behind a crude fencing of wire mesh, obscuring the entire front of the house. Through tatters in the green fiber we saw the settlers’ Shabbat candles glimmering. 20-year-old Sharihan Hannoun sat on a lawn chair on the sidewalk with other family members. She wore a black, long-sleeved sweater, jeans and sneakers. A blue hijab framed a pleasant young face with dark, arching eyebrows.

Sharihan said the army arrived at five in the morning August 2nd. One of the police shoved a gun through a window. He shouted, “Open the door!” “They break the door,” said Sharihan, “broken everything they see, threw all the tables, the chairs, and then come to me and hit me with a gun. Even my little brother, they put a gun in his back. My father say, ‘Don’t touch my son, he’s only eight years old.’ But they threw my father and my little brother outside and then go to my mom room. She say, ‘Let me wear my clothes, I cannot be in the street in pajama… [But] they refused. And they let her to walk on the broken glass ‘cause they broken everything they see . . . I sat and I put my arms around the door. [I said], ‘This is my house, I will never leave.’ But [the soldier’s] body is strong. He beat me.”

BECKY: In court, the Hannouns were ordered to pay rent in order to stay. They refused. Then the true owners were forced to issue this unlawful detainer. They could have stayed and paid rent. They could have moved once they lost their case. They opted to violate the court order, refused to pay rent, and refused to move out when ordered. So they were forcibly evicted. Not a surprise.

In the street, their cell phones and cameras confiscated, the family watched as the soldiers displayed their “purity of arms”: they tossed out all the furniture. Then they began playing football, something that particularly astonished Sharihan. “They didn’t care. They kick us outside, they eating my little brother chocolate and playing football. My brother say, ‘I want to sleep in my house.” And I can’t do anything for him.”

The day we visited, the family had been living for two months and ten days on the streets, with periodic help from relatives (bathing, toilet, etc.)

BECKY: I doubt this is true. This is what they SAY.

The Palestinian Authority put the family up in a hotel during Ramadan, then refused to pay anymore. On our visit, Sharihan had just returned from her classes. How could she study in these circumstances? A shrug: “I study in the street. I don’t have another place. I have to study and, like, have a normal life. I can’t give up. If they took my house it is not the end for me.”

BECKY: See? Even the PA doesn't help them.

I returned four days later to record Sharihan’s story. The next day she was to leave for the US with other Palestinian representatives of Sheikh Jarrah: all had been granted visas. Sharihan was to be interviewed by press in the US, and also to testify before the UN. Friends kept arriving to say goodbye and wish her luck. Did she want to stay in the US? “I want to return to my country. I want to open hospital, for old people. I think everyone forget what the old people do when they younger.” And how did the exams go? She beamed: “I am second in my class.”

Days after our visit, the settlers danced in triumph in front of their victims while the latter banged pots and pans to make them leave. The Jerusalem municipality has approved plans by Florida billionaire Irving Moskowitz, to build twenty apartments in Sheikh Jarrah. [ ] The settler organization, Nahalat Shimon International, also filed plans this past August with the Jerusalem Local Planning Commission to demolish Palestinian homes and build a 200-unit settlement. On Nablus Road, not far from Sheikh Jarrah, I saw that one Arab street name had been whited out. All that was left was a Hebrew name at the top of the sign, and the English one at the bottom.

Ellen Cantarow, a Boston-based journalist, has written from Israel and the West Bank since 1979. This article is part of a series, “Heroism in a Vanishing Landscape,” about non-violent Palestinian resistance to Israel’s occupation. She can be reached at