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The Fly

In the Army Now

U.S. Army recruiters are still sweetening the pot to entice potential grunts wary of the war in Iraq. First, recruiters offered a $20,000-plus increase in the Army College Fund. They said there was a need to keep up with inflating college costs, not to tempt peace-leaning youngsters. Now, the Army is promising a three grand bonus for anybody willing to enlist in the Reserves and ship to Basic Combat Training within 30 days. Do it within 60, and you'll be eligible for a $2,000 bonus. The Army—about 59 percent white, 24 percent black and 10 percent Hispanic—has met its recruiting targets, or "missions," for the last five years. The Northern California Recruiting Battalion, though, has not. Based in Sacramento, the battalion is responsible for virtually all of the northern part of the state. In its last fiscal year, the battalion recruited about 2,500 enlistees; 83 percent went into active duty, 17 percent were allocated to Reserve units. How has the war affected recruiting? "It's a case-by-case basis," says John Heil, one of the battalion's civilian recruiters. "Some folks are definitely interested in finding out if they're going to war. They ask the recruiter, and the recruiters say to them there is a strong possibility. They have to be upfront with potential applicants. It is a concern of some of the individuals. For some folks, it doesn't make a difference. I couldn't make blanket statements."

What's Old Is New Again

The prospect of a downtown concert hall seems slimmer now, with the recent news of the Redevelopment Agency's admission that it can't afford $20 million to help finance the project. Never fear—the Civic Auditorium is here. As was established last week, tight-walleted city officials are examining the Civic Auditorium for concert hall potential. Yes, the same 70-year-old auditorium where Elvis Costello and the Stones once graced the stage, but which for the last five years has hosted conventions, graduations and other low-profile events. The current seating capacity is 3,100 to 3,500, a tad smaller than what would be appropriate for a midsize theater, but, hey, that could be fixed—couldn't it? According to Team San Jose's Daniel Fenton, the idea of the Civic Auditorium as a concert venue has been proposed within the last 30 days—but before the RDA announced it was unable to fork over the loot. In other words, the city's empty pockets and the Civic Auditorium idea are not (officially) related. "We think the entertainment industry is interested in using it," says Fenton. "I'm not an expert, but I can tell you that there is clearly potential [for a concert venue]. It is possible that it could be done for relatively small dollars, and it just goes back to the whole premise that maybe it's better to invest in current assets."

Postscript

The federal appeals court in San Francisco was the site of an 11am hearing for Kulvir Singh Barapind, a Sikh activist who has been accused by the Indian government of committing 26 murders (Cover Story, "Activist or Terrorist?" Oct. 13), this past Thursday. Before the court, U.S. Attorney Stanley Boone and Barapind's attorney, Jagdip Singh Sekhon, fielded questions from the panel of 11 judges. In previous hearings, the Indian government failed to persuade a judge of many of the murder charges. (The judge said the Indians' hands were "unclean.") In Thursday's hearing, Barapind attempted to convince judges to dismiss remaining charges. The problem was, the panel seemed almost disinterested in the case—if any judgment could be made from the number of questions asked of Boone and Sekhon. Unfortunately for Barapind, most of the questions betrayed conservative leanings rather than liberal ones. Perceived disinterest in the case was outweighed by the interest of the Sikh community, members of which crammed the courtroom to the point of overflow—the extras were directed to watch the proceedings on a television monitor in the cafeteria. The many Sikhs were markedly traditional in nature, arriving in loose-fitting trousers (called shalwaars) and brightly colored turbans, with long beards, and mumbling prayers for Barapind under their breath. A sharp contrast, indeed, from Sekhon, who, while also a Sikh, was nattily dressed in a suit and tie. At the end of the hearing, the Sikhs gathered around Sekhon at the bottom of the courthouse steps. Sekhon, visibly drained from the oral arguments, addressed them in Punjabi, telling them he did the best he could. The Ninth Circuit judges should have a ruling within 90 days.

Voter Lockdown

If you want someone to vote against a measure, you find the people most affected by it. That's why an informal group of activists opposed to Propositions 66 and 69 has traveled to jailhouses around the state trying to register inmates so they can vote while in custody. Proposition 66 would limit the state's three-strikes law to serious, violent felons instead of the those who might have stolen a stereo or shoplifted a carton of cigarettes. Proposition 69 will expand the number of inmates forced to provide DNA samples to state authorities. "There's more of an emphasis on registering inmates this year than there ever has been," says Dorsey Nunn, a former felon who runs the nonprofit All of Us or None. The problem? Jail officials don't want inmates, who can vote as long as they're not on probation or serving time for a felony, to be registered. Two activists told Fly they tried to mail voter registration into Elmwood Correctional Facility in Milpitas, but the package was returned unopened. A jail official told them the county's Registrar of Voters was registering inmates at the jail, which the Registrar's office verified to Fly. Nunn says he's been turned away from Alameda, San Francisco and San Mateo county jails. His intention was to have inmates vote with absentee ballots. After being turned away, Nunn says he thought about contacting Secretary of State Kevin Shelley, until he learned that Shelley faced charges for using staffers on his election campaign. "He's trying to keep from going to jail his own self," Nunn sighs.


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From the October 20-26, 2004 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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