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Jan., Feb.


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"War is not inevitable. Force should only be used as a last resort."
- Statement on Iraq by the 15 European Union nations – N. Y. Times

American Student Killed by Israeli Bulldozer

International Solidarity Movement – Press Release – March 18, 2003

Group's press release disputes Israeli account

At about 5.20 pm today Rachel Corrie from Olympia in Washington State, USA died of her injuries in A-Najar Hospital in Rafah after being deliberately run over by an Israeli military bulldozer.

Rachel had been working as an ISM activist in Rafah for seven weeks when she was killed trying to prevent the demolition of Palestinian homes and property in the Hi Salaam area of Rafah.

The confrontation between the ISM and the Israeli Army had been under way for two hours when Rachel was run over. Rachel and the other activists had clearly identified themselves as unarmed international peace activists throughout the confrontation.

The Israeli Army are attempting to dishonour her memory by claiming that Rachel was killed accidentally when she ran in front of the bulldozer. Eye-witnesses to the murder insist that this is totally untrue.

Rachel was sitting in the path of the bulldozer as it advanced towards her. When the bulldozer refused to stop or turn aside she climbed up onto the mound of dirt and rubble being gathered in front of it wearing a fluorescent jacket to look directly at the driver who kept on advancing.

The bulldozer continued to advance so that she was pulled under the pile of dirt and rubble. After she had disappeared from view the driver kept advancing until the bulldozer was completely on top of her.

The driver did not lift the bulldozer blade and so she was crushed beneath it. Then the driver backed off and the seven other ISM activists taking part in the action rushed to dig out her body.

An ambulance rushed her to A-Najar hospital where she died.

Rachel joins 1,900 Palestinians who have been killed by Israeli soldiers and settlers since September 2000.

Israeli Troops Kill Unarmed Girl

Knight Ridder – by Richard Rubin, Carol Rosenberg – March 18, 2003

American was trying to protect Palestinian homes

(3/17/03) - JERUSALEM - Israeli troops bulldozing buildings in the southern Gaza Strip on Sunday crushed and killed an American college student who was protesting their actions.

Rachel Corrie, 23, whose parents live in Charlotte, was declared dead of skull and chest fractures at a hospital in Rafah.

As they left Charlotte Sunday night to join family members in Washington, D.C., Craig and Cindy Corrie said they were grieving and still trying to find out exactly what happened to their daughter.

"We were very proud of her," said Craig Corrie. "We're very proud of her courage and what she stood for."

Rachel Corrie of Olympia, Wash., had been in Gaza about seven weeks, acting as a human shield in resistance protests, friends said. Israeli soldiers in Gaza have been knocking down homes in the hunt for gunmen, hiding places and supplies tied to the radical Islamic Hamas movement.

The Israeli Army called her death "a very regrettable accident" and said it would investigate.

"We are dealing with a group of protesters who are acting very irresponsibly, putting everyone in danger -- the Palestinians, themselves and our forces -- by intentionally placing themselves in a combat zone," an army statement said.

But fellow protesters told a different story.

Joseph Smith, 21, of Kansas City, Mo., said he, Rachel Corrie and five other British and American protesters who are part of the pro-Palestinian "International Solidarity Movement" had spent the afternoon "trying to disrupt the work of the Israeli bulldozers" at the Rafah Refugee Camp.

"They'd play chicken with us, and they drive real close," said Smith of their so-called human shield strategy. "We developed this technique; it was successful because they didn't want to drive over us."

Wearing a fluorescent orange vest for visibility, Rachel Corrie then "sat down in front of them like we had done all day," Smith said. "But this time the bulldozer didn't stop."

Protesters heard her scream, then "we were hollering and waving our arms," Smith said. The bulldozer then backed over her again and retreated, he said.

Other witness accounts said Corrie slipped and was then run over.

Corrie, who was about to graduate from The Evergreen State College in Olympia, grew up in Washington state. Her parents moved about two years ago to Charlotte, where her father works in the insurance industry.

The Corries knew their daughter's mission was dangerous but said she was old enough to make her own decisions.

"I've raised my children to be independent and to make their choices," said Cindy Corrie as she held a photo of Rachel in front of her. "And I know that I couldn't tell her not to go."

Rachel Corrie sent her parents e-mail updates that hinted at the danger she faced, causing them to worry that the U.S. government was not doing enough to protect American citizens.

"She was in danger, as near as I could tell, daily," said Craig Corrie.

In a Feb. 7 e-mail, Rachel Corrie described the jarring disconnect between her relatively comfortable life in the United States and her new neighbors' constant fear.

"I am just beginning to learn, from what I expect to be a very intense tutelage, about the ability of people to organize against all odds, and to resist against all odds," she wrote.

Friends and fellow activists in Olympia grieved Sunday and planned to turn a nighttime peace rally into a memorial service for Corrie.

"We're all very angry about her senseless death," said Therese Saliba, a professor of Middle Eastern literature. "They always seem to take the best, you know. She was one of the best, brightest, most spirited and courageous young people in her community."

The college is known for its liberal politics. The pro-Palestinian movement has gained supporters on campuses across the country over the past several years, with students at some schools calling for their universities to divest themselves from companies that do business with Israel.

Larry Mosqueda, who taught political economy to Corrie, said she saw issues clearly and spoke concisely.

"People respected her, not just her peers in her 20s, but also people like myself in their 40s and 50s," he said.

It was the first known death of a foreign protester in nearly 30 months of fighting. Several other U.S. citizens have been killed in the violence, including Abigail Litle, 14, who was among 17 people killed March 5 when a Palestinian suicide bomber blew himself up on a bus in Haifa. Last July, five Americans also died in a bomb left by an Arab at Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

The U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv had no immediate comment, in part because Corrie's family would need to first sign a release permitting diplomats to discuss her case. The Corries said they heard about Rachel's death from news reports.

"Rachel was simply trying to help people keep their houses and their water and their gardens," Craig Corrie said.

Israeli Bulldozer Kills American Girl

Associated Press – by Jbrahim Barzak – March 17, 2003

She was wearing a brightly colored jacket when the bulldozer hit her

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip - An American college student in Gaza to protest Israel operations was killed Sunday when she was run over by a bulldozer while trying to block troops from demolishing a Palestinian home.

At least one Palestinian also was killed.

The killing of the student by the Israelis - the first of a foreign activist in 29 months of fighting - came as Israelis and Palestinians wrangled over the terms of a U.S.-backed plan to end the violence and establish a Palestinian state.

Rachel Corrie, 23, of Olympia, Wash., had been with U.S. and British demonstrators in the Rafah refugee camp trying to stop demolitions. She died in the hospital, said Dr. Ali Moussa, a hospital administrator.

"This is a regrettable accident," said Capt. Jacob Dallal, an army spokesman. "We are dealing with a group of protesters who were acting very irresponsibly, putting everyone in danger."

The army said soldiers were looking for explosives and tunnels used to smuggle weapons.

The United States "deeply regrets this tragic death of an American citizen," State Department spokesman Lou Fintor said.

He expressed condolences to Corrie's family and said the United States wants an "immediate and full investigation" into her death.

"We again call on the Israeli defense forces to undertake all possible measures to avoid harm to civilians," Fintor's statement said.

Greg Schnabel, 28, of Chicago, said four Americans and four Britons were trying to stop Israeli troops from destroying a building belonging to Dr. Samir Masri.

Israel for months has been tearing down houses of Palestinians it suspects in Islamic militant activity, saying such operations deter attacks on Israel such as suicide bombings.

"Rachel was alone in front of the house as we were trying to get them to stop," Schnabel said. "She waved for the bulldozer to stop. She fell down and the bulldozer kept going. It had completely run over her and then it reversed and ran back over her."

She was wearing a brightly colored jacket when the bulldozer hit her.

Several Palestinians gathered at the site, and troops opened fire, killing one Palestinian, witnesses said. The army had no comment on that report.

Corrie was the first member of the Palestinian-backed "International Solidarity Movement" to be killed in a conflict that has claimed more than 2,200 Palestinian lives - about three times the toll on the Israeli side.

A student at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Corrie would have graduated this year, Schnabel said.

Her killing should be a message to President Bush, who is "providing Israel with tanks and bulldozers, and now they killed one of his own people," said Mansour Abed Allah, 29, a Palestinian human rights worker who witnessed Corrie's death.

Several other U.S. citizens have been killed in Palestinian-Israeli violence. On March 5, Abigail Litle, 14, was killed in a Palestinian suicide bombing attack on a bus in the northern Israeli city of Haifa. Last July, five Americans died in a bombing at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

Bush said Friday that a long-awaited "road map" for peace would be back on the table once Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat appointed a prime minister with real power - a process that appeared well under way last week.

But on Sunday, Arafat presented legislators with proposed changes to the Palestinian basic law approved last Monday that, according to a diplomatic source, that created the impression that a prime minister was not independent.

The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the move could thereby reduce any pressure on Israel to constructively engage the new Palestinian prime minister.

The road map worked out by the United States, European Union, United Nations and Russia foresees Palestinian statehood by 2005 and an end to Israeli settlement-building in the West Bank and Gaza.

Bush has said that first, the Palestinians need to change their leadership, and the road map calls for Arafat to appoint an empowered prime minister.

While Arafat bowed to intense international pressure and agreed to share control with a new prime minister, Palestinian legislators said Sunday he was now asking for amendments in the law passed last week.

The most significant change was that Arafat wanted the ultimate say in the creation of a new Palestinian Cabinet, suggesting he could have veto power over candidates nominated by the new prime minister. He also asked for the right to chair Cabinet meetings, said legislators.

The 88-member Palestinian Legislative Council was to meet Monday to discuss the proposed changes. If agreement is reached, legislators are expected to approve the appointment of Arafat's longtime deputy, Mahmoud Abbas, as premier.

Meanwhile, Israel pressed ahead with its proposals over key phrases in the draft "road map." According to the Haaretz newspaper, Israel wants to replace all references to an "independent" Palestinian state with the term "certain attributes of sovereignty," noting that such a state has to be "credible" and "law abiding."

Israeli officials had no immediate comment on the report, which cited anonymous Israeli sources.

The Palestinians say U.S. officials have assured them that no more changes will be made in the document.

In phase one of the draft, Palestinians would carry out government reforms and crack down on militants, while Israel would withdraw from Palestinian towns. Israel would then recognize an interim Palestinian state. Negotiations on full statehood would come in stage three.

Each phase is laden with obstacles. If Arafat fails to appoint a prime minister with real power, Israel could refuse to end its occupation of West Bank towns and villages. To date, Arafat has failed to rein in militants.

Financial Apocalypse – by Simon English in New York – March 4, 2003

Warren Buffett is poised to issue his most doom-laden forecast for the state of the world economy yet, including a damning verdict on the derivatives industry he fears could cause a global financial crisis.

In the upcoming annual letter to shareholders of Berkshire Hathaway, Mr Buffett drops his usual folksy style to warn that banks do not understand the hidden risks lurking on their balance sheets.

He labels derivatives "time bombs, both for the parties that deal in them and the economic system" and "financial weapons of mass destruction, carrying dangers that, while now latent, are potentially lethal".

The views of the world's second richest man are closely watched and his apocalyptic vision will do little to steady nerves on Wall Street or in the City of London. Extracts from his annual letter, to be delivered on Saturday but posted on yesterday, reveal that he has little optimism for the stock market.

"Despite three years of falling prices which have significantly improved the attractiveness of common stocks, we still find very few that even mildly interest us. That dismal fact is testimony to the insanity of the valuations reached during the Great Bubble. Unfortunately, the hangover may prove to be proportional to the binge," he writes.

Until now vague warnings about the pyramid nature of derivatives contracts have led to bland assurance from banks that there is no threat to their stability.

Mr Buffett says the banks simply have no idea what their exposure could be. "When Charlie [Munger, his business partner] and I finish reading the long footnotes detailing the derivatives activities of major banks, the only thing we understand is that we don't understand how much risk the institution is taking."

Derivatives are often complex financial instruments that allow investors to take bets on anything from share prices to the weather. Their range is limited, says Mr Buffett, "only by the imagination of man, or sometimes, so it seems, madmen". Enron was especially fond of derivatives, offering contracts that would be settled years in the future and claiming profits immediately.

Berkshire Hathaway acquired a derivatives dealer when it bought reinsurer Gen Re. After failing to sell this business, Mr Buffett is now closing it down though he admits this will take years. "Reinsurance and derivatives businesses are similar. Like Hell, both are easy to enter and almost impossible to exit," he says.

Mr Buffett, dubbed the Sage of Omaha, believes that major insurers are exaggerating earnings from derivatives contracts and underplaying the "daisy chain risk" that comes when they lay off business with other firms.

His personal fortune fell last year by $5 billion to $30 billion, leaving him second to Bill Gates in the rich list.

Link to a derivatives warning in the year 2000:


Surfer Girl Politician

San Diego City Beat– by John R. Lamb – February 24, 2003

Donna Frye, San Diego’s woman of the waves, has overcome huge obstacles to become the city’s undisputed populist leader

Love her or not—and, admit it, the only ones who don’t are the greediest, most self-centered and ignorant among you—Donna Frye, this town’s very own Mother Nature, has risen from the depths of abuse and self-doubt to become perhaps the most passionate elected official San Diego has possessed in a generation.

Although city politics is sold as non-partisan, no one believes it. And yet, Democrats and Republicans alike say the same thing about the 51-year-old populist councilmember. If you’re looking for accessibility, unvarnished commentary and straightforward talk, Donna is your doyenne.

“Politicians usually develop a kind of wall between themselves and the public,” notes Norma Damascek, head of advocacy and public policy for the San Diego League of Women Voters. “Everybody’s trying to be your friend, because they want something. Most politicians don’t even look in your eyes anymore.

“But Donna hasn’t had to do that. I think so far, she has been able to maintain herself and make some good decisions about who is really her ally and who is just trying to beat her. I think it’s just a gift she has. I can’t explain it any other way.”

Damashek echoes a similar refrain from the gamut of San Diego’s economic and political spectrum, and while the scrappy little kid from Clairemont has had her detractors throughout her life, the second-year District 6 councilmember—already the victor in two tough, even acrimonious, elections—has managed to emerge from each fight seemingly stronger and the better for it.

Born in 1952 in Pennsylvania Dutch country to an incredibly supportive mother she now lives with in Clairemont (along with her husband, surfing legend Skip Frye, and their dog, Diogenes) and a father she barely knows, the former Donna Sarvis is now synonymous with San Diego’s—even the state’s—environmental-activism movement, particularly when it comes to the oceans, bays and rivers that draw so many people here every year.

As Scott Barnett, head of the arch-Republican San Diego Lincoln Club and frequent council critic on budgetary matters, had to admit about the left-leaning Frye: “I truly understand and support her passion on clean-water issues. I mean her husband almost died, and that’s enough to make you passionate about any issue.

“On those issues, I think Donna sees the broader picture—that if you just treat the end of pipe and say we want to divert it or treat it, that’s treating the symptom but not dealing with the problem at the source. Which not only makes more sense, but under the Clean Water Act provisions, cities are going to have to deal with.”

The story goes that Frye first came to the defense of the unsuspecting public sometime in sixth grade, when she came “to the rescue of a weaker girl by punching out her assailant,” wrote acclaimed surfing journalist Chris Ahrens several years ago in an article for The Surfing Journal titled “Queens Never Make Bargains.”

Ahrens continues: “While she hasn’t hit anyone in quite some time, some of her opponents might prefer a good smack in the face over being the subject of newspaper editorials, or having their names plastered, unfavorably, on bumper stickers….”

A victim of wrenching physical abuse herself in her teens, when she was raped, and later in a suffocating marriage in the ’70s that included frequent beatings, Frye has taken a much more Ghandi-esque approach to the fights she has chosen since she kicked alcohol more than two decades ago and decided to chase the demons of environmental ignorance that were harming the people dearest to her—particularly her husband and the surfing community she grew up with and continues to serve as its matriarch.

Skip Frye, who at 61 continues to devote himself to the surfing culture while tempering that carefree lifestyle with deep religious beliefs, refers to Donna as “Mother Nature.”

“I don’t know what I did to deserve her, but she certainly saved me. I use that nickname a lot for her, especially when she’s up against the power structure,” Skip explained recently from his tucked-away surfboard-shaping shop on the south edge of Bay Park. “I kind of joke around, ‘You know, it’s not nice to fool Mother Nature!’”

Those who have tried have typically been surprised that there is much more to this iconic ’60s surfer girl, with her husky voice, bawdy laugh, perennial deep tan and trademark sun-streaked, center-parted hair. And as the La Jolla Light recently pointed out, her “dreamy blue eyes.”

Frye frequently points to a small plaque on a wall in her 10th-floor City Hall office, festooned with numerous awards and commendations and enviro-laden artwork on her desk and against the straw-like wallpaper that hails back to the Bruce Henderson days when he served as the council’s combination court jester and social conscience. But this particular plaque, set off-center, holds much meaning for Frye. It contains a quote from Gandhi: “First they ignore you. Then they laugh at you. Then they fight you. Then you win.”

Some people wonder when Donna the activist will give way to Donna the politician, a word that continues to make her cringe. She despises being lumped in with the rest of the vote-swapping, ass-covering lot of political horse-traders that have ridden into town for years and years.

“That’s what’s fundamentally flawed about government,” Frye told CityBeat. “Government is fundamentally flawed as soon as people start doing the trading thing, where you cross the line just for this because you want that. Then it just sort of snowballs, which is why people don’t trust government officials. You just feed into it and get sucked right along with it.”

At a recent ribbon-cutting ceremony to mark the re-opening of a new playground—or “tot lot,” as they’re called now—behind the North Clairemont Recreation Center, Frye was ebullient over not only the hundreds of children and parents who chose to attend the midday, midweek event, but also about a victory she had pulled off earlier as a member of the San Diego Trolley board, one of her other council duties.

As she is oftentimes on major issues facing the City Council, Frye found herself the sole opponent of a plan by trolley management to continue shrink-wrapping bright-red trolley cars with garish paid advertisements. The board had approved the moneymaking idea for last month’s Super Bowl festivities, but now staff was talking about continuing the practice, arguing that a tight budget picture justified it despite earlier assurances to the public that it was only temporary.

“In my opinion, they were ugly,” Frye said of the ads with her usual candor. “They’re just awful. But when we were going back and forth on it, I said, ‘But the main reason not to do this is because we said we wouldn’t.’”

It could have been a scene right out of the old Henry Fonda courtroom classic, Twelve Angry Men: board members—most current or former politicos—soon began swaying her way. And in the end, she had a unanimous vote to stop the practice, budgetary arguments be damned.

“This is probably one of the coolest things that has happened to me as far as votes go,” she chirped before scampering off to cut the ribbon and join a gaggle of excited schoolchildren on the new playground—even taking a turn down the new slide.

Mike Simonsen, Frye’s chief of staff who honed his managerial skills as a backcountry firefighter and as a community rep on staff with Frye’s ousted predecessor, the stock-tainted Valerie Stallings, knows the trolley board is obscure. “Nobody knows it’s even there,” he confides. “But some of the decisions they make affect people’s lives forever. Like watching rolling billboards run up and down the trolley line.”

But thanks to its obscurity, he explained, the trolley board seems untainted by the pull of lobbyists, at least that day. “They were all there making decisions without prejudices, just based on the information they had there,” Simonsen said. “She was able to change their minds by simply saying, ‘Remember, when we did this we said it was a one-time-only.’ Well, you know politicians all the time vote for one-time-onlys and then later say, ‘Well we didn’t have all the information and we need the money.’ They can rationalize it.”

In this case, Frye proclaims: “People voted the right way for the right reason!”

While her opponents may accuse her of sanctimony—one hotel operator on Mission Bay, part of her District 6 purview, once reportedly called her “monomaniacal” for her devotion to protecting the local environment—even those who don’t side with her on many issues give her props for her passion and stick-to-it-iveness, from issues ranging from SeaWorld’s attempt to overdevelop their slice of Mission Bay Park to the tangled webs the city has found itself in over its sports teams.

“I think she’s the classic example of just a regular person who got mad and got active,” said Laura Hunter, a longtime environmental voice in San Diego and director of the Environmental Health Coalition’s Clean Bay campaign. “I’ve known her for 12 years, and you can just track her progress—from seeing the damage that was happening to her husband and her friends from ocean pollution and just being a surf-shop owner, trying to make a living and struggling by like the rest of the world.

“It was the inaction by those people we’ve entrusted to take care of us that motivated her. What I’ve always loved about her is how creative she is about raising awareness.”

Frye’s creativity has long been her hallmark. In many ways a typical San Diego child, Frye came to San Diego when she was 4, after her mother, Laura, now a retired registered nurse, moved her family here in 1957 after divorcing Donna’s birth father and marrying a civil-service worker, whom Frye describe as “the dad I call my dad, my birth stepdad.” Robert Sarvis passed away more than five years ago, but the councilmember and her mother still remember fondly the spontaneous trips to Disneyland the family would take Sundays after church.

“Spur of the moment, hopped in the car, went to Disneyland, then the hotel for dinner,” recalled Laura Sarvis, who at 75 still twinkles with her daughter’s tenacity and sense of humor. “It was easy.”

Frye also remembers when the family moved to England when her stepdad got a job there. A lifelong lover of dance, she attended the Royal Academy of Dance as a child, where she studied ballet. “It was really sort of depressing, because they sort of told my dad that I probably wouldn’t make a very good ballerina,” Frye says now. “So when we moved back to San Diego, I took up tap and jazz. Like, OK, screw the ballet!”

The family moved to the present home in Clairemont in 1962. A year later, her older brother Michael introduced her to surfing—and her love of the ocean blossomed.

On a recent visit to their Clairemont home, the pair laughed frequently and spoke frankly about the family’s ups and downs. “I guess you can see we’re a pretty normal, not very fancy family,” Laura said. Frye’s mom collects Hummel figurines, which are neatly displayed in a small office that Skip and Donna remodeled from a spare room. Donna, too, is a collector, and she proudly showed off the numerous Disney character figurines she’s gathered for years.

She pulls out a good-sized rendition of Jiminy Cricket from a glass case in her book-filled room and slides open a secret door on the base. Inside is a gold pin. The star-shaped medallion has tiny writing on it, which reads “Official Conscience.” She wears it often to council meetings, she says.

Asked why the fascination with all things Disney, Frye later replies in an e-mail explaining the connection:

Jiminy Cricket, companion to Pinocchio, she says, “is not untarnished, however, and a bit of a flirt. If you recall, Geppetto is a toymaker who wanted a child of his own and carved Pinocchio out of wood. In order to become a real boy, Pinocchio must prove himself to be brave, truthful and unselfish. Jiminy Cricket agrees to be the conscience of Pinocchio (but only after the ‘all-knowing Blue Fairy has batted her eyelashes at him.’) If you haven’t read the story, you should. It’s pretty entertaining, especially when Pinocchio goes off to Pleasure Island and the bad guys turn him into a donkey.”

Frye goes on to cover the part about Pinocchio’s lies and the resultant growing nose, how it gets big enough for “birds to nest in.” After mentioning Monstro the whale, Cleo the goldfish and Figaro the cat, she adds, “Last thought on this… It was the Blue Fairy who gave Jiminy Cricket the star-shaped medallion, but only after he helped Pinocchio become human.”

The analogy is not lost on Frye, an avid reader who frequently quotes philosophers. She remembers her first trip to Washington, D.C., to lobby on environmental issues, where “nobody had any facial expressions” except one senatorial staffer whom she told, “Oh my God! I’m so glad to see you!” Saying hello to everyone else seemed to draw the same response, she said: “The alien has spoken to us.”

She said the “automaton” mentality struck her “because I am very human, very imperfect!” Humor is her weapon, and “the minute I lose my sense of humor, I’ve gotta get out and go walk or do something to get it back, because it’s the only way I stay sane. It absolutely is.”

Sometimes, life—both personally and professionally—challenged her resolve. Frye unflinchingly talks about her past. Raped as a teenager. Brutalized and raped by a possessive, insecure husband in a previous marriage during the ’70s. (“There wasn’t a place on my body, below my neck, that wasn’t black and blue at some point,” she explained.) A penchant for large quantities of whiskey before she quit drinking more than two decades ago by taking walks instead to Mission Bay and feeding a family of ducks.

Frye will say her life turned around when she moved back to San Diego again in 1979 from Sacramento and the nightmare first marriage. With a job background that had jumped all over the map—she has worked as a maid, dance instructor, teacher’s aide, sales clerk and one stint at Poor Boy Rentals—Frye settled into work as a billing clerk for a local dentist.

The following year, while living in a motel in Pacific Beach with a pet cockatiel while an apartment she intended to rent was fixed up, she decided to treat herself to a restaurant dinner. She walked over to a Mexican restaurant that no longer exists, and that’s where she met longboard impresario Skip Frye.

They hit it off immediately, and they’ve been together ever since. Together with Skip’s longtime friend, Hank Warner, the trio opened Harry’s Surf Shop in late-1990. This was not your typical surf shop, with endless rows of boards and T-shirts and sunglasses. Oh, there was some retail, but most of the space was taken up by Hank and Skip’s board-shaping operation. “It was definitely different,” Skip says now. “There was a lot of art, lots of pictures of surfing history on the walls.” Donna, meanwhile, ran the business end. (“Skip is such a gentle spirit,” she said. “And people were taking advantage of his generosity, like not paying for the surfboards he made ’em.”)

As Skip tells it, Donna made quick work of her responsibilities and soon started devoting more time to environmental causes. “A year or so after we got in there, she got full-on into the environmental thing,” he said. “The surfboard thing was just a side thing for her. Her main focus was environmental activism.”

The rest of the story is classic Frye lore. After noticing that Skip and his friends were getting sick from surfing in polluted ocean water, Donna began investigating.

“Remember, this was way back when no one even knew what stormwater pollution was, or at least they didn’t think it was a problem,” Hunter of the Environmental Health Coalition recalled. “She just started figuring it out like a detective, like OK, there’s all these people getting sick and nobody’s home (oversight-wise). She started doing the swimmer health survey, and well, it’s really a classic Erin Brockovich story.

“She just saw all the harm and just set about becoming an expert, and now look at her. She’s one of the decision makers!”

What got her noticed, though, was the creativity of the fight she waged. She held annual Dukes and Kooks awards, handing out plaudits and jabs to the good and bad of the environmental scene. “Kooks were the losers,” Hunter said. She even handed out a Kook Award one year to the U.S. Navy for its continuous polluting of San Diego Bay.

In 1995, she formed Surfers Tired of Pollution, or STOP, using some of the profits from the surf shop to promote, cajole and finally demand action to put a halt to toxic storm-drain runoff.

Perhaps her most famous target, however, was surfing-culture poseur and Kook Award-winner Brian Bilbray, the so-called “surfing congressman” and former mayor of Imperial Beach who made a name for himself by driving a bulldozer near the polluted Mexico border.

On Feb. 7, 1995, the Union-Tribune published a letter to the editor written by Congressman Bilbray in which he proclaimed: “I have voted for and have been involved in more efforts to promote clean water and clean, safe beaches than any politician or surfer I know.” Elected by a slim margin to Congress in 1994, the Republican Bilbray couldn’t have known what was in store for him. As Frye wrote at the time, “It didn’t take long to research Bilbray’s voting record in Congress. He was one of [House Speaker] Newt Gingrich’s flunkies and took his marching orders from him….”

Upon further review, Frye discovered that Bilbray’s environmental voting record was so putrid that the League of Conservation Voters had given him a “big fat zero” out of a possible score of 100. Bilbray griped that the rating was biased, but the pounding had only begun. Soon, the media picked up on Frye’s campaign, which included a Frankenstein cutout that displayed Bilbray’s voting record and a singing toilet in the surf shop that had a likeness of Bilbray’s head coming out of the bowl (she would later adapt the toilet for other environmental foes, such as her former political opposite on the council, the recently termed-out Byron Wear).

In 1997, Surfer magazine invited Bilbray and Frye to an informal debate, when Frye toasted the congressman with the following comment about Bilbray’s self-proclaimed “good intentions”: “One good day of surf doesn’t make up for a 20-year flat spell.”

The pair posed for a picture that Frye keeps framed to this day. The photo shows a smirking Bilbray, in white shirt and tie, next to the more flamboyantly attired Frye, who is seen holding two fingers in bunny-ear fashion over the congressman’s head.

Unprofessional, you say? Well, Frye says she had a reason. Fearing that Bilbray might use the photo to convince voters that Frye was a supporter, she decided to put her own stamp on the picture to assure that wouldn’t happen.

“I was really upset that he was gutting the Clean Water Act,” she explained. “I was fearful that [the photo] would end up in some campaign brochure with me sitting there looking buddy-buddy with Brian. I had to do something.”

Adds her mom with a chuckle: “Oh yes, she’s always 10 steps ahead.”

A year later, Bilbray was voted out of Congress.

The lesson is as true today as it was then, says Simonsen, her chief of staff. “Don’t ever try to bullshit her. If you do, she’ll just step it up a notch, wanting to get that information even more than before. She intimidates some people because she is so smart, she reads everything and she makes sure that she understands it.”

Since becoming a member of the City Council, she has had her office conduct its own review of the Charger trigger threat (“The conclusion seemed to be that they can’t trigger,” Simonsen said), opposed the pilfering of the city’s retirement system, which is now on the brink of financial collapse, been the voice of environmental credibility on the council and been given kudos by the mayor for her efforts in rescuing the San Diego River from urban devastation.

As with anyone so determined, Frye indeed has her detractors, including many coastal developers, hotel owners and bar operators—the latter not because of her own self-imposed sobriety but rather due to the preponderence of liquor licenses in Pacific Beach, which her husband now refers to as “one big bar.” It was her outspokeness on the matter, in fact, that got Harry’s Surf Shop booted out of its longtime location after the landlord failed to convince Frye to keep quiet on his plan to redevelop the property into a hotel with yet another bar.

She also brings her own quirks to City Hall. Having never owned a driver’s license (“I tried driving, and I didn’t like it”), Skip typically drops her off and picks her up from work. Wherever she goes, Frye carries bottles of iced tea in her oversized carryall. To focus before work, she gardens every morning in her backyard.

Frye is uncharacteristically coy when discussing her relationship with the mayor, which got at least a token boost at the last State of the City address. Frye discovered that she and the mayor’s daughter share similar ramrod-straight, center-parted hairstyles. “We kind of bonded over that,” Frye said with a hearty laugh. “I’m just trying to find things we have in common.”

While some City Hall observers believe Murphy has treated Frye rudely on occasion, she will only allow that “rudeness, like many things, is in the eye of the beholder. Is it rude to regularly remind the same councilperson of the time when it is their turn to speak? Or is it simple a courteous gesture to let someone know what time it is? Let’s just say it is interesting.”

Mayor Murphy, in a statement released by his press secretary, had this to say about Frye: “Although Donna and I do not always agree on issues, I respect her sincerity and diligence in representing her constituents.”

Little wonder that some political observers suggest that Frye would be a formidable mayoral opponent to the current version of bland punctuality. Says Damashek of the League of Women Voters: “I think people do ask about her running for mayor, because they are so hungry for somebody who seems to listen, who seems to care about the public interest. Our current mayor seems a throwback to the ’50s, all fairness and balance with no strong positions on anything in life.

“Donna has very real, strong positions about the purpose of being a politician, which is to serve the public and try to increase the public benefit and good.”

Lloyd Uber, a longtime Clairemont resident who attended the tot-lot ceremony, echoed a common sentiment of the surfer-girl-turned-councilmember: “She hasn’t always voted our way. Not happy with that, but I think she’s probably the most independent person on the council.”

And the greatest perk for the document-ravenous Frye?

“Free copies!”

NC Balances House

Associated Press – by Scott Mooneyham – January 25, 2003

Decker switches to Democrats, making House even split

RALEIGH, N.C. - Staunchly conservative state Rep. Michael Decker switched his affiliation from Republican to Democrat on Friday, splitting the House 60-60 between parties.

Republicans were shocked by the move, which threatens their control of a chamber that most thought they had won on election day.

The move is the latest and most bizarre twist in the contest to select a House speaker as the General Assembly prepares for the new session that begins next week.

Decker said that he will support current House Speaker Jim Black, a Democrat, for another term and said he suggested the party switch to Black.

He said he believes Black is "the best man to be speaker of the House, to get us through these troubled times we are in."

"I surveyed the lay of the land and felt like it was the only way to ensure his election," Decker said after changing his party registration at the Forsyth County Board of Elections. "There are conservative Democrats in the House and I'll fit right in with them."

State Republican Party Chairman Bill Cobey called Decker "North Carolina's Jim Jeffords," a reference to the Vermont senator who dropped his Republican Party affiliation in 2001 to give Democrats control of the U.S. Senate.

"I've had better days. I'm deeply disappointed," Cobey said. "I was shocked, given his conservative voting record. It doesn't make any sense, especially given the fact that his district is heavily Republican."

Decker was among the GOP House members that had lined up against Rep. Leo Daughtry, R-Johnston, in the speaker's race.

Daughtry, the current House minority leader, is the leading GOP contender for the speakership but his leadership has been accompanied by deep rifts within the party that have led other Republicans to seek the post.

Daughtry said Decker's switch would not stop his campaign.

"Obviously, Mike Decker was not in my corner. I don't think it helps me any, but I don't think it's the end of the world either," he said.

Several Republicans speculated that Decker received promises of a leadership post from Black, which Decker denied.

Rep. Frank Mitchell, R-Iredell, a close ally of Daughtry, accused the Forsyth County legislator of selling out his party to become speaker pro-tem, the second-ranking position in the House.

"They are welcome to him, I guess," Mitchell said.

Republicans also speculated that Decker may not seek re-election in 2004. Decker said he had not decided whether to seek another term and that it did not factor into his decision.

Black said the decision took courage.

"He has put his values and what he believes is best for the people who elected him above partisan politics," he said.

Decker's switch keeps Black's hopes alive for winning a third term as speaker, but it far from assures his election.

Just like Daughtry, Black has dissidents within his own party.

Some House Democrats said another party switch could be in the works but refused to comment on who it might be.

Decker also hinted that further defections were possible.

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Online Brokers Fined $70 Million

New York Times – by David Barboza – January 16, 2003

Seven former traders and executives of Datek Online, a pioneer in online stock trading, agreed yesterday to pay $70 million in fines for what regulators called illegal trading and fraudulent bookkeeping during the market boom of the 1990's.

The Securities and Exchange Commission called it one of the largest securities fraud settlements ever.

Regulators said the group of former traders and executives made tens of millions of dollars from stock fraud that went on for nearly a decade and involved taking advantage of a Nasdaq trading system that was intended to help smaller investors.

Jeffrey A. Citron, 32, Datek's former chief executive, and Sheldon Maschler, 58, the former chief trader, agreed to the largest fines, $22.5 million and $29.2 million, respectively. They also agreed to be permanently barred from the securities industry. The others paid smaller fines and penalties.

Under the terms of the settlement, Mr. Citron and Mr. Maschler acknowledged no wrongdoing.

Regulators said the former Datek executives were caught taking advantage of a system that was set up to help smaller investors have their trades executed quickly.

"They always portrayed themselves as the little guy on Wall Street," said Marc Beauchamp, executive director of the North American Securities Administrators Association, which represents state securities regulators. "But apparently they were gaming the system for the benefit of a handful of Datek executives."

Mr. Citron and Mr. Maschler were instrumental in transforming Datek from a small day-trading operation in Brooklyn into one of the nation's fastest-growing online brokers in the late 1990's. They also helped create Island E.C.N., Datek's online stock trading network that once petitioned regulators to become a full-fledged stock exchange.

Datek, which long ago distanced itself from its former day-trading operation and was recently acquired by Ameritrade, paid a $6.3 million fine a year ago to regulators to settle similar accusations of stock fraud.

Mr. Maschler, now a real estate developer, was once seen as a day trader with a history of regulatory infractions and close ties to Robert E. Brennan, the former penny-stock promoter who is banned from the securities industry and is now serving a prison sentence for failing to disclose his assets.

Mr. Citron, who joined Datek at age 17, had a more polished image than Mr. Maschler had. A former trader, he was hailed in the late 1990's as "one of the 20 most important players on the financial Web" for blending computer and stock trading skills. In 1997, at 27, he was leading one of the nation's fastest-growing companies.

At the time, Mr. Citron was bold and confident. He was building a multimillion-dollar home on the Jersey Shore. He boasted of being worth more than $100 million. He owned a Gulfstream jet and often commuted to Manhattan by helicopter.

But his fall was swift. In 1998, after federal investigators began looking into accusations of illegal trading at Datek's former day-trading unit, it canceled plans for an initial offering. A year later, Mr. Citron quit as chief. In 2000, under pressure from some Datek investors and executives, Mr. Citron and Mr. Maschler sold their majority stake in Datek to private investors for about $500 million.

Mr. Citron is now the chief executive of Vonage, a telecommunications company. Last year, Fortune magazine listed him as one of the "40 richest under 40," with a net worth of $189 million.

Last year, Datek, then the nation's fourth-largest online broker was acquired by Ameritrade for about $1.3 billion in stock; the Island E.C.N. was acquired by the Instinet unit of Reuters for about $500 million.

A spokeswoman for Ameritrade said yesterday that it would not comment because the issues involved occurred before Ameritrade acquired Datek.

Datek rose to prominence by using sophisticated software to profit from making quick and aggressive Nasdaq trades.

But federal investigators say that during much of that time Datek executives manipulated the exchange's small-order execution system, which was set up to help smaller investors who had difficulty completing trades during the market crash of 1987.

Investigators say that Datek executives pretended to be using the system to make trades for smaller investors with accounts at Datek. In fact, they said, Datek's traders and principals were trading for their own benefit. At one point, regulators say, Datek accounted for about 30 percent of the trading volume on the Nasdaq small-order execution system.

To hide their involvement, investigators say, Datek executives recruited family members, friends and others to create so-called nominee accounts. Datek also created fictitious books and records and filed false reports with regulators, regulators say.

Later, some Datek executives set up a bank called Raft Investments and used about $50 million to finance some nominee accounts. Former Datek traders have said in interviews that they took out high-interest loans from Raft and that some nominee investors were guaranteed returns in exchange for the use of their names.

Federal investigators say most of Datek's trading profits went to Mr. Citron and Mr. Maschler and that fraudulent bookkeeping was used to transfer about $277 million to shell companies the two controlled. For instance, in 1995 and 1996, Datek sent $200 million to a company controlled by Mr. Citron. Investigators say that Datek fraudulently recorded it as a payment for computer services.

Datek's trading operation was so successful that by the late 1990's, the company had about 200 traders. Around 1997, however, it began transforming itself into an online brokerage firm that could be used by small investors.

Datek Online, as the company became known, helped usher in the era of cheap online trading and the $9.99 Internet trade.

But in 1998, when investigators began looking into accusations of illegal trading practices and money laundering, Datek sold its day-trading unit to Heartland Securities, a company controlled by Mr. Maschler and his son Erik.

Regulators say most of the nominee accounts were transferred to Heartland and the new company continued to engage in illegal trading as late as June 2001.

In a complaint filed yesterday in Federal District Court in Manhattan, regulators accused the former Datek employees of stock or bookkeeping fraud. They included Michael McCarty, 39; Aaron Elbogen, 54, the chief executive before Mr. Citron; and Moishe Zelcer, 56, the former chief compliance officer.

Erik Maschler, 32, who worked at Datek and Heartland; and Joshua M. Levine, 34, a former Datek executive and one of the chief architects of the Island E.C.N., were also accused of stock or bookkeeping fraud. Mr. Maschler has agreed to a $6 million fine and a permanent ban from the securities industry.

Mr. McCarty paid a $1.5 million fine; Mr. Elbogen paid $1.4 million; Mr. Levine, $1 million; and Mr. Zelcer, $150,000. Sheldon Maschler also agreed to pay a $2.3 million fine for improper investments involving a savings and loan.

In addition, Heartland agreed to pay a $7 million fine and be censured by the S.E.C.

Aaron Marcu, a lawyer for Heartland, said in a statement: "Heartland is very pleased to have resolved these issues and put it behind us."

Ted Wells, a lawyer representing Sheldon Maschler, but also the lead negotiator, said in a statement: "All involved are satisfied with the resolution of this case and, most importantly, are pleased to be able to put this matter behind them."

News - Page 4 - 2002