May 292008

Oakland Tribune – May 2008

OAKLAND — Extravagant manicures and pedicures are in high demand these days despite concerns about catching infections at less-than-immaculate salons.

Isabella Nail Bar, recently opened in Montclair Village, is designed to offer these beauty services in a sanitary environment, thanks to its founder, Nguyen Uyen, a chemist.In two months since she opened Isabella Nail Bar, Nguyen has attracted such a following that she said she’s looking for a second property.Nguyen, her family name, worked as a chemist for Analog Devices for almost 10 years. She began looking into the area of beauty care when two of her sisters-in-law, both manicurists, fell ill from having handled for several years the acrylic used in nail care. One of them lost her 8½-month-old unborn baby, Nguyen said.The chemist went online and educated herself about the products used in nail salons. She learned that one of the largest distributors for nail products for professional salons uses ingredients so harmful that they are banned in Europe — formaldehyde, toluene and dibutyl phthalate.”None of these things are in my products,” she said.She also learned the difference between a so-called organic product and a certified organic product.”Anybody can say their product is organic, but only the government can say it is certified organic,” Nguyen said.Sally Robb Haims, spokeswoman for the Green Spa Network, an alliance of spas devoted to environmentally friendly products, said the government certifies certain products as organic but does not mandate standards of organic purity.”The bottom line is, you need to educate yourself and learn to read labels,” Haims said.She said consumers can learn more about ingredients in cosmetics through the Environmental Working Group’s online Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database, which features more than 25,000 cosmetic and personal care products and can be accessed at of the practices of some nail salons that do not thoroughly cleanse their foot baths, Nguyen, an Orinda mother of two, designed her own foot baths. She designed a plumbing system that would flush water out rather than recirculate it — as many competitors do — to avoid the spread of infection. Then she engaged a company called Sanijet to construct the tub and incorporate her plumbing design.To ensure sanitary tools, she has installed an autoclave, the pressurized device medical professionals use to sterilize their instruments.But her salon isn’t anything like a sterile, clinical doctor’s office. It is a restful, feminine haven.All of her work seems to be paying off. Nguyen expects to be profitable this year. She has had an excellent reception in her first two months in Montclair, and a core of clients from Berkeley have been urging her to open a store in that city.”People want me to do all sorts of things, like start an organic juice bar or my own line of products,” she said with a broad smile and a grateful, if weary, voice.

 Posted by at 4:09 pm
May 272008

Oakland Tribune – May 2008

OAKLAND — Researchers stood on a downtown street corner Tuesday counting people and bicycles as part of a project studying the effect of vehicular traffic on pedestrians and cyclists.

The project began in April and will produce a report at the end of the year under the supervision of UC Berkeley doctoral student Bob Schneider, who is studying city and regional planning, and Lindsay Arnold, a research associate with the university’s School of Public Health.

Bicyclists and pedestrians will be counted at 50 sample sites around the county, including areas of high and low traffic density. Pedestrians are counted either manually or automatically by infrared sensors that are imbedded in the sidewalk or installed in signs. From noon to 2 p.m. Tuesday, researchers stood on corners at 12th Street and Broadway in downtown Oakland counting people one by one.

Beginning next month, devices will be imbedded in Oakland and Dublin to count bicyclists.

There’s a great need to know more about how pedestrians and cyclists use city streets so planners can figure out ways to keep them safe from vehicles.

“There’s been a significant increase in pedestrian and bicycle issues with people’s increased understanding of the importance of physical activity and rising gas prices,” Schneider said.

However, Schneider and Arnold said the data on pedestrian and bicycle accidents have not been systematically captured in a way that helps planners create safer streets.

For instance, while the traffic lights at 12th and Broadway include a countdown timer so pedestrians know how long they have to cross the street, Broadway has no bike lanes or overhead signals instructing vehicles how to behave around bicyclists, Arnold said.

Jason Patton, bicycle and pedestrian program manager of transportation services with the city’s Community and Economic Development Agency, said the ultimate benefits of the study would be to produce a predictive model of pedestrian and bicycle traffic that could be used by cities and counties to build safer streets. There are such models already, he said, but they’re complex and used mostly by university research.

To fund the study, Caltrans is contributing $15,000 and the Alameda County Transportation Improvement Authority is contributing $25,000.

 Posted by at 4:11 pm
May 202008

Oakland Tribune – May 2008

PORT OF OAKLAND — Containership company APL celebrated the renovation and redesign of its terminal Tuesday.

APL and the Port of Oakland shared the $68 million renovation cost for the project.

The reconstruction work unified two parcels of land at the 80-acre terminal on Middle Harbor Road, eliminated abandoned buildings, reclaimed vacant land and redesigned the container yard for faster cargo transport.

APL spokesman Mike Zampa said the terminal can now move three times as much cargo in the same amount of time, allowing the company to move as much as 360,000 boxes a year. Furthermore, APL has installed equipment that will reduce deleterious emissions.

APL’s President of the Americas John Bowe said an increase in cargo-handling abilities was achieved without adding an acre of space.

“That’s a dramatic productivity gain,” he said.

By adding capacity, APL said additional shipping services could be routed to Oakland where the company employs 500 people.

The company renamed its terminal Golden Gateway Central in a ceremony attended by Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums and others.

 Posted by at 4:03 pm
May 172008

Oakland Tribune – May 2008

Jose Robles and his brother-in-law went to Tijuana last year on a mission to bring a relative to the United States. Instead, it turned into a bureaucratic tangle that could have threatened Robles’ job as a machinist at the Port of Oakland.

The relative — the brother of Robles’ brother-in-law — didn’t have a valid visa to cross into United States. The three men were detained, photographed, fingerprinted and held overnight. Robles, who is in the country legally, had nothing to do with the man’s offense.

Robles was scared. He had worked as a machinist for shipping line AP Moeller for 17 years.

“They don’t listen to you. You’re nobody over there, when you’re in those places,” Robles said of U.S. border enforcement.

The next day, the man at fault was arrested while Robles and his in-law were released with no further charges pending. But the matter was not closed for Robles.

This year, when the machinist, a member of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, applied for his Transportation Workers Identification Certificate — or TWIC card — his application was denied. Through his union, he contacted the National Employment Law Project — based in Washington, D.C., with an Oakland chapter — whose lawyers were able to sort it out for him.

“I couldn’t sleep at night thinking of all this and wondering how I was going to be able to get my (TWIC) card,” he said, referring to the certificate  that is required for all port workers under new Department of Homeland Security regulations. “Probably I’m going to lose my job. My wife was very worried, too. I felt like I had been thrown away.”

But law project staff members checked with the San Diego courts and district attorney and ascertained that Robles hadn’t been charged with any wrongdoing. They demonstrated to the Transportation Security Administration that their client had not been prosecuted or charged. Three weeks later, Robles had his card.

Staff members at the National Employment Law Project say Robles’ situation is not uncommon.

“Almost all appeals to the TWIC program are successful, so that shows you how inaccurate the records are,” said Maurice Emsallem, the National Employment Law Project’s public policy director, who is based in Oakland.

The project’s mission is to shepherd people through background checks they increasingly encounter when looking for jobs with employers who screen for criminal records.

Since Robles works on a maritime terminal at the Port of Oakland, he has to pass the criteria of the new identification document that all workers on federally regulated maritime facilities must acquire by the end of the year.

Administered by the Transportation Security Administration, TWIC cards are designed to weed out possible terrorists from the nation’s ports. The worker’s fingerprints and iris biometrics are scanned into it. A TWIC card is denied to anyone convicted of felonies associated with terrorism.

The Transportation Security Administration, in administering the TWIC program, refers to the FBI’s database to ascertain the applicant’s criminal record. But that database, according to the National Employment Law Project, records arrests, not the outcome of arrests. In other words, according to the Transportation Security Administration, Robles appeared just as guilty as if he had been convicted.

“Lots of FBI records are inaccurate because they have the arrest information, but don’t tell you what happened after that. So a lot of workers are getting denied TWIC,” Emsallem said.

Through the first week of May, Transportation Security Administration has disqualified 4,500 applicants nationwide, fielded 2,000 requests for appeals and granted 1,700 appeals. Only 13 applicants have been disqualified finally.

Nico Melendez, Transportation Security Administration spokesman, called the process “very user-friendly.”

“If a person is disqualified, that’s what the appeals process is for,” he said.

About 8,000 TWIC applications so far have been submitted in the Bay Area, 7,400 from Oakland, according to Lockheed Martin, which holds the contract for administering the application process.

Emsellem said state and federal laws and private companies are increasing their demands for background checks.

“We’ve been doing outreach with the port, maritime and transportatio

n unions,” said National Employment Law Project attorney Laura Moskowitz. “We have a lot of information on our Web site, which people can find.”

The process for appealing also can be found on the Web site by clicking “Second Chance Labor Project.” It is available in seven languages.

For details, contact the National Employment Law Project at 510-663-5700.

 Posted by at 2:10 pm
May 062008

Oakland Tribune – May 2008

Trucker Tomas Soto said he was injured by rocks thrown at his truck at the Port of Oakland….

VIDEO: Truckers protest Monday at the port

OAKLAND — About 80 striking truckers from Middle Harbor Road at the Port of Oakland were ticketed and dispersed Tuesday after some of them committed vandalism, police said.

Some drivers had damaged a truck’s window while the driver was operating the rig, Sgt. Peter Lau said.

Nevertheless, the protesting truck drivers who own and operate their own rigs vowed to continue demonstrating at the port for the rest of the week. They say motor carrier firms have been underpaying them for diesel fuel.

“No Stopping Anytime” signs are posted along Middle Harbor Road. But on Tuesday the port’s main artery was lined with protesters’ automobiles and some truck cabs.

“Yesterday (Monday) was peaceful,” Lau said. “There were agreements among the officers here that we would let them (the strikers) use their First Amendment rights. However, the port’s traffic was not going to be obstructed and people were not being hurt.”

Now that is all changed.

Police will be there in force for the rest of the week, and will enforce the area’s parking rules, Lau said.

The crowd on Tuesday was highly agitated. At one point, five police officers surrounded and detained a man driving a station wagon, then ordered him to depart.

The crowd then became extremely vocal. Several strikers said police should support them, not oppose them.

Driver Kibraab Weldaad was among those who said the motor carrier firms — which act as brokers between shipping lines and customers — have not been reimbursing drivers for the rising cost of diesel fuel, as stipulated in an agreement struck four years ago.”It costs me $700 to fill up the truck,” he said. “In a week it cost me $1,200 because I only get 7 miles to a gallon.”Jerry Philips, a partner of Impact Transload & Rail, said his firm and the other major motor carrier companies serving the Port of Oakland pay drivers fairly. This week’s unrest was organized, according to him, by truckers from the Central Valley who serve railroad carriers.

Traffic at the port has slowed considerably, Philips said.

“We are at a dead standstill,” he said. “A few drivers managed to get some stuff out before picketers showed up.”

Port officials said they would not know the impact of Tuesday’s disturbance on traffic until today.

 Posted by at 4:18 pm
May 052008

Oakland Tribune – May 2008

Until 20 years ago, marine terminals managed the transport of cargo from ship to shore manually with pencils and clipboards. That is, until Navis, a small, privately held Oakland-based company, introduced software that allows marine terminals to computerize their shipyards.

Since then it has been followed by copycats and competitors.

Acquired by Zebra Technologies, a publicly listed Illinois-based conglomerate in December 2007, Navis can now work in complement with other Zebra companies and provide more flexibility and oomph for its customers, explained general manager John Dillon at its recent annual conference.

Zebra has $1 billion in revenue and is capitalized at $2.5 billion. It specializes in printing systems involved in tracking inventory such as barcodes and RFID tags — those devices that identify merchandise with radio waves. Think of the microchip on your dog.

Dillon emphasized that many of Navis’ solutions complement those of WhereNet and Proveo, which that are now under the same umbrella. While WhereNet has been its competitor in some cases, some companies use both. APL Logistics employs both tools at its terminal at the Port of Los Angeles, according to its Oakland-based spokesman Mike Zampa.

In Oakland, Navis has 200 employees and will add another 50 by the end of the year, Dillon said.

“Navis serves 200 large terminals and are installed in 400 sites in 50 countries,” Dillon said.

Dillon said the world experienced a downturn in container traffic last year and he expected that to continue this year.

“There’s been no effect on our business yet, but we expect to pull back on spending (from customers),” he said. But he expected an increase in exports to be beneficial to Navis and Zebra business.

A privately held company before its acquisition, Navis would not disclose its earnings at that time.

At the end of last year, Navis was apparently deluged with offers from terminal operators, manufacturers, large software companies, aerospace and defense contractors and terminal consortiums.

Wanting to avoid any conflicts of interest or dependence on government contracts, the investors found Zebra not only cash-rich but “a benign public company.”

 Posted by at 7:47 pm
May 052008

Striking truck drivers yell at the working truck drivers on Middle Harbor Road on Tuesday, during…

VIDEO: Truckers protest Monday at the port

On a day when Mexicans celebrated their freedom from European oppression — Monday’s Cinco de Mayo — Latin American and Punjabi truck drivers who are independent owners lined up on Middle Harbor Road seeking freedom from poverty.

The drivers, their cars and truck cabs were lined up fender-to-fender outside the Union Pacific rail terminal protesting insufficient support for diesel fuel from the motor carrier companies who are their customers.

Four years ago, the companies that dispatch the drivers to carry cargo agreed to pay them every year 5 percent of their fuel costs above $2 per gallon. But in fact, these protesters claimed most of them were not. Instead they claimed they are shouldering $4.50 per gallon themselves.

“We are paying more than we make,” said a driver who did not want to be named.

About 50 men standing in small groups — divided by the language they spoke — immersed themselves in intense conversation and held signs encouraging one another to “Fight for Your Rights.”

Twenty of the drivers, from the Richard Daniels Transportation Company of Oakland, claim the company has not paid them for the diesel. Drivers for other companies said those motor carriers which use their services recompense them anywhere from 34 cents a gallon to 12 percent of their costs.

Every time a truck passed by with a colleague who was not standing in solidarity with them, the protesters shouted, hooted, whistled and gesticulated their displeasure.

Ajit Singh Gill, an independent contractor who calls himself an organizer of other owner-operated truck drivers, said company owners have not stood up to their end of the bargain.

“They didn’t increase anything,” Gill said. “Some of us have stopped working. We want to work. But we will have to stop because we don’t have that much money.”

Richard Coyle, president of Devine Intermodal of Sacramento, said he was paying his drivers $4.50 per gallon.

Gill reported that truckers en route to Stockton, Lathrop and Sacramento had stopped in sympathy with those at the port of Oakland. No outside confirmation of this could be obtained.

 Posted by at 4:16 pm