‘We are not going away’

Friends Group fights to change sheriff’s nighttime release policy in wake of woman’s disappearance

By Justin Chapman, Pasadena Weekly, 3/25/2010

They may not have gotten exactly what they wanted from LA County Sheriff’s Department officials in the hot seat over the disappearance of a woman who has not been heard from since being released from custody in the dead of night in September.
But members of the Friends Group, an arm of the city’s Commission on the Status of Women, let law enforcement officials know that they won’t forget 24-year-old Mitrice Richardson, who went missing Sept. 17 after she was released at 12:35 a.m. from the sheriff’s Malibu/Lost Hills Station.
“We’re not going to go away on this,” said Shirley Spencer of the Friends Group. “There needs to be increased awareness of our rights. While there are super nice people in the Sheriff’s Department, there are also issues that need attention.”
On March 17, Spencer’s group hosted a low-key panel discussion on the sheriff’s nighttime jail release policies that included input from Chief Neal B. Tyler, who oversees the Malibu/Lost Hills Station, as well as the sheriff’s Crescenta Valley and Altadena stations. The event at the Pasadena Central Library was aimed at giving family members a better idea of where the search for Richardson stands. 
The department maintains that the current policy is both legal and necessary. But Spencer called the county’s custodial nighttime release policy “imprudent” when it should be “compassionate.” People — especially women — should not be released from jail at night without access to money, a phone, transportation and proper clothing, Spencer said.
The Friend’s Group plans to collect stories of women inmates released at night and meet again with sheriff’s officials for updates on the search for Richardson. 

That’s Envirotainment!

Green film fest hopes to change the way we think about ourselves and our world

By Justin Chapman, Pasadena Weekly, 3/18/2010

UCLA’s James Bridges Theatre this weekend hosts the fourth annual Green Lifestyle Film Festival, an event aimed at illustrating how film can be used to “create change for the greater good,” according to event spokeswoman Lisa Chamberlin.
Festivities begin at 5 p.m. Friday with a Green Carpet opening featuring celebrities such as Australian writer, model, actress, producer and vegan Joanne Rose, vegetarian actress and comedian Debra Wilson Skelton, Norwegian Playboy Playmate Lillian Muller, and pre-teen hip-hop sensation Maxso. Opening ceremonies at 6 p.m. include trailers and a question and answer session with filmmakers.
Films will be screened from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, after which there will be a gala awards dinner from 6 to 11 p.m.
The festival, according to its Web site, was created to counter media messages based on fear and violence with “films that address the reasons behind such distorted images of mankind and our role here, with films that challenge us and inspire us to live lives of inspiration and to become the magnificent beings that lie within each of us.”
“Join us for a weekend full of entertainment of the highest integrity and plenty of food for thought,” said Chamberlin.

The James Bridges Theatre is at1409 Melnitz Hall, (UCLA), 405 Hilgard Ave., Westwood. A half-day pass is $35, $65 for a full day and $195 for a weekend pass, which includes access to the awards ceremony and the catered vegan dinner Sunday evening. Buy tickets online at greenlifestylefilmfestival.com, punch in the code GLFF2010 and receive $70 off the price of the weekend pass ticket. The festival also features a free OutDoors Arena, which is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Sunday and includes a stage with live musicians, dancers, theater and other entertainment. There will also be top chefs doing live demonstrations and booths offering information. For more information, visit greenlifestylefilmfestival.com or call (310) 854-2078 or (310) 928-7689.

‘Triangle of Life’

Disaster experts debate three vastly different approaches to what people should do during an earthquake

By Justin Chapman, Pasadena Weekly, 3/11/2010

Following major earthquakes in different regions of the world, three explanations of what to do if you are in a building during an earthquake have emerged.
But which is the best approach?
The traditional way of thinking on the subject, the one that is taught to schoolchildren across the country, says we should get under desks, tables or any object that offers some protection above our heads. This approach also advises us to find doorways to stand under until the shaking stops.
However, Douglas Copp, a rescuer, is challenging that theory and rejects the advice of traditional disaster experts. Having climbed into 875 buildings in 60 countries to help find disaster victims, he has shared his observations and findings, including what he calls the “triangle of life” — the space next to objects such as desks, chairs and beds, where Copp suggests we take refuge when the earth starts to tremble. 
Traditional suggestions of getting under desks and standing in doorways actually lead to more deaths, according to Copp, rescue chief and disaster manager of the American Rescue Team International (ARTI). Based on his experience, Copp argues that people will be safer if they get next to those objects and into the triangle of life, where they will be protected from falling debris, according to an article by Copp on ARTI’s Web site called “Earthquake Tips.”
“The larger the object, the stronger, the less it will compact,” wrote Copp. “The less the object compacts, the larger the void, the greater the probability that the person who is using this void for safety will not be injured. The next time you watch collapsed buildings on television, count the triangles you see formed. They are everywhere. It is the most common shape you will see in a collapsed building.”
He claims that almost everyone who simply ducks and covers when buildings collapse is crushed to death, as are people who get under objects and stand in doorways.
Several disaster experts dispute Copp’s findings and claim his suggestions are not scientifically based.
Ricky Lopes, American Red Cross manager of Community Disaster Education, said the American Red Cross’s suggestion of “duck, cover and hold on,” which includes getting under a heavy object, is based on building codes in the United States, and he maintains that technique has saved lives.
Copp wants his triangle of life approach, based on an experiment he conducted in Turkey, adopted by the world’s nations, most of which use International Building Codes published by the International Code Commission for worldwide distribution and sales. These codes are different from what is traditionally used throughout the United States.
Copp’s recommendations, said Lopes, are “inaccurate for application in the United States and inconsistent with information developed through earthquake research.”
Dr. Marla Petal, director of the Bogazici University, Kandilli Observatory and Earthquake Research Institute’s Disaster Preparedness Education Program in Turkey, acknowledges that there are voids, or triangles of life, next to objects after an earthquake. But in a published article responding to Copp’s claims, titled “The Need for an Evidence-Basis for Earthquake Survival Tips,” Petal argued that “the force of earthquakes moves large and heavy objects. We don’t know whether it is possible to anticipate where the life-safe voids will be before the collapse or whether it is possible to get there during the strong shaking of an earthquake.” 
In other words, it is impossible to predict where those spaces will be because those objects, like everything else, move during an earthquake.
Petal’s doctoral research focused on the causes of death during the Aug. 17, 1999, Kocaeli Earthquake in Turkey, as well as the implications of those findings for public education outreach.
The third approach comes from Dr. Michio Kaku, a famous and prolific theoretical physicist. Appearing on Geraldo Rivera’s show on FOX Television, Kaku said that during an earthquake, people should simply run. And if they can’t get out of a building, they should not stand in doorways or get under objects. As an alternative, Kaku suggested the triangle of life approach, which has been getting more public attention since evidence from recent earthquakes in Chile, Haiti and China has shown that people who did what they were told — got under objects and stood in doorways — were killed or maimed. 
According to Petal, however, Copp’s claims are “extreme hypotheses” that need to be tested. 
“Even the best scientific methods don’t always provide perfect or even helpful results,” wrote Petal. “Nevertheless, scientific methods should be used to investigate our hunches. There are many important questions that we haven’t begun to answer, but absolute claims like this are just total rubbish and no substitute.”
Copp bases his advice on an experiment in 1996 co-organized by ARTI, the Turkish government, the city of Istanbul and the University of Istanbul, in which they filmed a “practical, scientific test.”
“We collapsed a school and a home with 20 mannequins inside. Ten mannequins did ‘duck and cover’ and 10 mannequins I used in my ‘triangle of life’ survival method. After the simulated earthquake collapse, we crawled through the rubble and entered the building to film and document the results. The film, in which I practiced my survival techniques under directly observable, scientific conditions relevant to building collapse, showed there would have been zero percent survival for those doing ‘duck and cover.’”
Copp claims there would likely have been 100 percent survival for those using the triangle of life method.
Petal, however, noted in her response that this was not a scientific experiment and that its organizers did not simulate an earthquake, but rather rammed columns and caused the building to pancake.
“Earthquakes come in waves,” she wrote. “They cause lateral shaking. They cause a variety of different kinds of damage. Since this experiment didn’t produce anything resembling shaking, it really doesn’t tell us anything at all about what would happen during an earthquake. It could be that the large and heavy furniture would end up at the other end of the room, nowhere near where it began.”
The truth is there’s only so much we can do when we are caught off-guard inside a building in an earthquake. So far, no single approach seems to be a fail-safe method for everyone to utilize in every situation. Survivability depends on several circumstances, including the magnitude of the quake, the type of building a person is in and the building codes used during construction, the size of objects in the room and access to medical resources. 
New evidence emerges with each quake, but one thing experts can agree on is that these methods need to be tested further using science to determine their applicability. 

Ready, willing, but unable

Though hopeful for a happy ending, mayor says the city is already doing as much as it can to help the now-closed Pasadena Playhouse

By Justin Chapman, Pasadena Weekly, 3/5/2010

Following the closing of the historic Pasadena Playhouse last month due to millions of dollars of debt inherited from the theater’s previous operator, Playhouse executives have turned to the city for help in saving the official State Theater of California. 
In a Feb. 11 letter to Mayor Bill Bogaard and the Pasadena City Council, Carla Walecka, president of the Playhouse District Association, urged the council and city staff to “do everything in your power to accomplish four things: 1) Bring a theater company back to the Playhouse as soon as possible, 2) Activate the theater space and patio in the interim, 3) Retain Furious Theatre [a separate company operating at the theater] within the Playhouse District, and 4) Promote the diverse and vibrant arts venues our district offers to Pasadenans and the region.”
Unfortunately, however, Bogaard said recently that there isn’t much more the city can do to help financially, explaining that over the years the city has been supportive, providing the lease on the building at $1 a year. “We’re not really able to allocate funds to nonprofit organizations,” added Bogaard, who along with the council is working to close a multimillion-dollar gap in the city’s finances. “That question frequently comes up, but we try in every way, short of direct cash subventions, to be supportive, cooperative and to facilitate good outcomes. And we’ll certainly continue to do that. That is our space there and it’s possible that in the future we’ll be able in some regular way to help with the upkeep of the building to ensure that that asset is protected.”
During curtain call for “Camelot,” the theater’s final performance on Feb. 7, Artistic Director Sheldon Epps called the Playhouse closing “intermission” and said bankruptcy was a viable alternative. On Jan. 29, executives, including Epps, Executive Director Stephen Eich and board Chair Michele Engemann, decided to cancel the 2010 season of plays, consider financial reorganization, including seeking advice from a lawyer about bankruptcy, and other options. Nearly 40 employees have since been laid off.
Since then, Playhouse executives have asked the city and donors for help, but so far they have not been able to acquire the nearly $6 million they say is needed to pay off their $2 million debt and continue production.
“My hope is that later this year they’ll be back in business,” said Bogaard. “But they’re obviously just at the beginning of this restructuring. We’re in direct communication with Stephen Eich and his transition team. City Hall strongly supports the effort that they’re engaged in to stabilize their financial picture. We stand ready to cooperate in their efforts.”
Founded in 1917, the Playhouse was named the State Theater of California in 1937.