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April 18-24, 2007

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Silicon Valley News Notes

Skull and Groans

San Jose Giants fans got more than a double header this past Sunday. They were greeted at Municipal Stadium's gate by Greenpeace activists and a giant electronic skull and bones made from thousands of pieces of junked Apple products. Greenpeace kicked off its Toxic Tech Tour at the game, handing out literature and answering questions about E-waste while the massive skull's computer monitors played videos of children working on Mount Everest-size global trash heaps in developing countries like Africa and China where these discards are sent. During the game, fans watched faux Apple ads from the stadium's JumboTron and were asked to urge Apple to go green. Ashby Marshall, Greenpeace organizer, says they'll be touring Silicon Valley until Apple's annual shareholders meeting in May, where they hope Apple CEO Steve Jobs will announce new eco-policies. Greenpeace asked Apple's board of directors to pass resolutions removing the most toxic substances from its products and to offer free take back everywhere Apple products are sold. But our question is: since when did minor league baseball go all Al Gore? "When we asked if we could come to the game," says Marshall, "the San Jose Giants said 'yes' right away and offered us their JumboTron. This campaign is very positive. We love our Macs and Ipods. We just wish they were greener. We're still saving whales, but we're looking at E-waste because it's massive and it's a hazard that's impacting the entire world."

Budget Cuts! Stat!

With the closure of San Jose Medical Center and the Regional Medical Center opting to not accept Medicare clients, demand for Valley Medical's services just keeps going up. So why does the county keep cutting their budget off at the knees? For the sixth year in a row, Valley Med administrators are being asked to make a significant reduction in their projected budget, which came in at $888 million—an increase of $68 million from last year. County executives have asked Valley Med to surgically excise $35.7 million from that figure. On top of that, the county wants the hospital to find an additional $31 million from reserves for this coming fiscal year. That means that any extra money—found, for example, when census-based budget estimates prove lower than actual revenues—will go to the county's general budget instead of Valley Med's reserves. It's what we call a transfusion. that Valley Med anticipated funneling into its reserve pool will have to be returned to the county's general fund. "This is nothing new," says Valley Med information dispenser Joy Alexio—but, she warns, the situation is about to go critical. "It is now getting to the point where there isn't anything left to cut," she says. "We've managed to cut as little as possible and maintain a quality of care, but there may be programs and services we simply can't do. In the future, really tough decisions will have to be made." An added headache for the hospital's budget-makers is word that the hospital's doctors plan to organize to reach a collective bargaining agreement, much like nurses and other hospital employees; Alexio says she isn't aware of any such effort. Fly also hears that doctors at Valley Med are discussing putting limits on drug company representatives—notorious for schmoozing doctors to push their wares—much like Stanford hospital did last year. The younger, more idealistic doctors are liking the idea, while the older doctors remain opposed. Alexio says there have been no formal discussions on the issue.

Get on the Train

People get ready, the Peace Train is coming to San Jose's Ron Diridon Station this Thursday at 8:30pm. It's coming from L.A., of all places, bringing 200 activists, youth delegates and policy-makers, including family members of Mahatma Gandhi, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Cesar Chavez. They'll be together for the first time celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Gandhi King Season for Nonviolence with on board discussions, concerts and films. Dr. Arun Gandhi, the Mahatma's grandson, told Fly that he started the Season for Nonviolence (SNV) in 1998 when he noticed that the 50th anniversary of the Jan. 30 death of his grandfather was the same year as the 30th anniversary of the April death of Dr. King. He wanted to commemorate these dates meaningfully and thought that the 64 days between them could be a season for people to promote peace. Friday they'll meet with 100 local youth at the San Jose Marriott for the Living Legends of Nonviolence Conference, where Paul and Richard Chavez, Dr. Gandhi, Yolanda King and peace luminaries like Dolores Huerta will hold workshops, talks and study sessions. Saturday there will be a Community Nonviolence Conference & Youth Leadership Summit at Evergreen Valley College. Saturday's conference is sponsored by EVC, dozens of religious and interfaith organizations, city and county agencies, and Rotary Club, East Valley Family YMCA and City Year. All of these events are open to the public. Huerta, co-founder of the United Farm Workers Union, says "we'll be talking about how to create a peaceful world. Hopefully it's the beginning of a journey that will sow the seeds of nonviolent action and peace." Though by major media outlets, the SNV is a grassroots movement that's now active in 400 cities in 18 countries with programs like this weekend's conferences, Jewish-Muslim dialogue, interfaith services and school curriculums teaching conflict resolution and anger management to gang members who then teach these skills in their communities. "We practice violence in many different ways", says Gandhi. "We have to become the change that we wish to see in the world. We can't change the world if we don't change ourselves."

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