Online Edition: September 2005     Vol. XVIII, No. 1

sponsored by Peace Life Center Middle East Committee. Public invited

Modesto Peace/Life Center Vigils for Peace:  Please call the Center for time, place, and message themes, usually Fridays. Info: 529-5750.

  • 23 FRI: Counter Recruitment Rally. Gather @ 5:30 pm, corner of Standiford and Conant; March to Prescott Recruiting Center, Modesto.

  • 24 SAT: Vigil for Peace, McClatchy Park, Modesto, 10 am

  • 24 SAT:  Mass March in San Francisco: Stop the War In Iraq, End Colonial Occupation: Iraq, Palestine, Haiti. Bring The Troops Home Now. Gather at 11 am at Delores Park, SF. LOCAL TRANSPORTATION: Meet at Modesto Peace/Life Center, 720 13th St., 8:30 am sharp. Bus leaves at 9 am. Cost: $15.00 per person, $10.00 for students Reservations email Michael Napp, or call 209-526-9588,or 209-484-0226.

Hurricane Katrina Relief

As news breaks regarding this enormous catastrophe, relief is desperately needed.  

To address immediate needs of food, water and shelter, you may wish  to donate directly to one of the many humanitarian groups best equipped to provide for those affected by the disaster.

One relief organization of known integrity is Church World Service (CWS).  You can make a donation for Hurrican Katrina Relief through CWS at Church World Service, P.O. Box 968 , Elkhart , IN   46515 or online at

Numerous other relief organizations working to help in this catastrophe can be found through the FEMA website.

The GI Rights Hotline


Peace & Justice

Around the Center: 


Living Lightly

Recipes from Connections

A Gathering of Voices

Out and About


Masthead and Back Issues

Opinion and Letters to Connections

Health Services Agency has a strong advocate


When Margaret Szczpeniak, Director of Stanislaus County Health Services Agency speaks, you know she’s passionate and knowledgeable about her work. At the July League of Women Voters meeting she detailed the immense job facing Stanislaus County to provide health services. Our county has just passed the half million resident mark, it has a high poverty level, and the Agency has an ever-growing deficit. The county’s depth of poverty affects the health of ALL ITS RESIDENTS.

The county Health Services Agency must serve two groups:

• Those who qualify for Medi-Cal — the state’s version of Medicaid, restricted to several different classifications, including disabled, some elderly, some families.

• Those who are “medically indigent” (MIA): about 10,000 people who are uninsured, who may be employed but who do not have access to health insurance; the county is responsible for them. Since each county decides who is qualified for MIA, a person may qualify in one county and not in another.

In addition, Public Health programs provide service for everyone, not just the poor. They account for about 24,000 client contacts annually, for communicable disease control, Public Health Nursing, Women, Infants and Children (WIC). Several of the buildings at the old Scenic Hospital site are used for Mental Health.

The Health Services Agency is a “shoe-string” operation; family practice clinics have 260,000 visits a year. For 80,000 patients this is their only medical home; they have no other place to go. There are six clinics — three in Modesto, one each in Ceres, Turlock, and Hughson. There are also clinics for high risk Obstetrics, Pediatrics and Dental and Specialty Clinics at Scenic Drive. The clinics are at capacity. Though these services are not state mandated, they are an efficient way to provide health care to Stanislaus County’s poor. Where will these people go when they get sick? We are already hearing about jammed emergency rooms, perhaps the most inefficient, costly solution.

“Losing the clinics would be a public health disaster, “ says Margaret.

Margaret explained that the county’s family practice residency program, supported by local hospitals and UC Davis, trains nine doctors a year, each for three years . The residents staff the clinics, work in medical offices, primary care sites, pediatrics, dental services, home medical work, and in hospitals. Many of these doctors stay in the community after they graduate. Our county attracts doctors by providing the residency program, so it is a crucial part of their work. .

The Agency has a budget of $85 million with a staff of 700 full time equivalents. Where does the funding come from? One sources is the federal government, through the state, but Stanislaus County has almost the lowest rate of reimbursement of the state, due to a formula established in the days of Proposition 13. The county can fund only about 5 percent of the services, and the rest has to come from the state. The Agency has to compete at annual budget time with all other county services

Szczpeniak stated, “The system is broken. The Agency currently has an $8.7 million operating deficit. This level of deficit is not sustainable.”

What to do? It sounds hopeless, but there is a ray of hope, small as it is. Efficiency only goes so far, since each year the cost of physicians contracted services increases about $2 million. There is a possibility of qualifying better for Federal reimbursement, but that takes years.

Margaret said that the county has 17 acres of under-utilized prime land on which the old hospital sits, along with public health and mental health offices. This usage is very inefficient, not needed by the system. How about selling that? Only time will tell.

ACTION: The Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors finalizes the county’s budget on Tuesday, September13 at 9:00 a.m. If you feel strongly about health, show up at Tenth St. Place, downstairs and support the Health Services Agency.

Write to your state legislators and support SB 840 (Kuehl), to provide California with a health plan for all its citizens. This bill is supported by California’s League of Women Voters.

FUN! FUN! FUN! at the upcoming Connections Fundraiser


Our annual Connections Auction and Fundraiser will be held on Saturday September 10, at the beautiful riverside paradise of Tom and Alfa Broderick, 13918 Yosemite Blvd (Hwy 132), Waterford on the Tuolumne River. The fun begins at 3:30 p.m. Bring drinks and food to share to this potluck picnic.

There will be: dancing, swimming (in a pool, not the Tuolumne River), music, exotic food. David Rockwell, our inimitable auctioneer and wallet surgeon, will again extract your hard-earned dollars painlessly to support the peace and justice newspaper most dear to your hearts, Stanislaus Connections.

Auction items will include: terrific fair-trade coffee from Nicaragua offered by Shelly Scribner; scrumptious pies from Myrtle Osner and Indira Clark; a home-cooked feast for four prepared from scratch by the Italian culinary maestro Dan Onorato and his wife, Mary Alice; dance lessons from Judy Kropp; a weekend getaway for two at Elaine Gorman and Tim Ford’s Twain Harte mountain retreat; Coffee Syrup (yes!) from that faraway land called Rhode Island; and handmade note cards from that same exotic place. A peaceful lawn decoration is in the works as well from lawn ornamentier, Don McMillan.

We are still acquiring exciting items, so if you have something or can provide a service, please call or email Dan Onorato, 526-5436, or Jim Costello. 537-7818.

DIRECTIONS: From Modesto proceed east on Hwy 132, Yosemite Blvd., out of Modesto, through Empire, past the Fruit Yard (Geer Rd.) to Waterford. Just before you get to the Oakdale-Waterford Hwy (south to Hickman, north to Oakdale), there is a Y in the road. Stay to the Right. Then proceed East on 132 straight across the Oakdale-Waterford Hwy. Continue through Waterford, past the new subdivision. The turnoff to Tom’s house (13918 Yosemite Blvd.) will be on the right. There will be a sign directing you from there.

A medical technologist’s eye-opening visit to Khmelnitsky


It takes a lot of nerve to visit a foreign country, particularly with the purpose of comparing services. It takes more nerve to visit a foreign country to learn how people cope with what they know is a situation where their pride can be hurt. I return to Modesto humbler from visiting Modesto’s Sister City Khmelnitsky, and Kiev, Ukraine, hospital, polyclinic, and central blood bank clinical laboratories. Memorial Medical Center, Modesto Sister Cities International and Khmelnitsky Sister Cities International graciously allowed my husband and me to become people-to-people diplomats for three weeks in June.

But why Ukraine, why now, and why at all? Because my heart has always wanted to go to that Exotic Place behind the Iron Curtain where No Man Goes for Any Reason (they had a Tragic Nuclear Disaster — comedic that curtains could be iron). Serhiy Samborski, chair of the Modesto- Khmelnitsky Sister City Committee, asked if we could take medical equipment? I said sure, he said good and blessed us. Danny Arimboanga, Memorial Medical Center’s Clinical Laboratory manager, said, “Yes, Take the Reichert Microstar IV [microscope].” Anthony Campos, Memorial’s Biomedical Department manager volunteered nine Colin physiologic monitors, and two Nellcor pulse oximeters. We got them there, with only one monitor casualty. Everything else is functioning in hospitals all over Khmelnitsky.

All the people are overjoyed with the medical equipment. They made us a party for three weeks. Serhiy and I were interviewed on television and radio. I blasted the spending system, for the Health Ministry dictates: 10% supplies, 10% utilities, and 80% labor. There is no room for capital equipment. There is no discretion for the institutional administrators, the Chief Doctors. There is little, if any, private health insurance and no private investment in health care. Ukraine spends about 2% of Gross Domestic Product on health care. The US, by comparison, spends about 14%-15%. By the same token all 45 million Ukrainians have free health care, and 45 million Americans can get virtually no health care at all.

I saw the surgery theater in the Children’s Hospital. There lives a rusty operating table (I need a generous donor to replace it, I promised!), tiles coming off the walls, windows with a dripping air conditioner, and surgical knives and implements lying open on a glass shelf in a glass cabinet. The Chief Doctor, a young surgeon, made a point of having the TV crew following us film it for the benefit of the community viewers. We also viewed the hospital beds we previously sent in grateful use. All the beds have sheets and blankets now, or they did for our visit.

Every health care facility we visited has gracious, needy workers. The language of the laboratory is the same as here; Latin roots and terms. which I could understand, and they could understand me. I came away with great respect for the men and women who work and save lives under such archaic conditions. The lab equipment does not use modern technological improvements. That’s expensive. One laboratory doctor confessed to having Hepatitis B. Her daughter does not want her to go to work any more. Neither this lady doctor, nor the Chief Doctor of the Oncology Hospital, understood that a bloody urine specimen could transmit HIV/AIDS to an open wound, until I related a story of a friend of mine who died of AIDS from that very route of infection.

The laboratories occupy rooms about 10 feet by 8 feet, as do offices, exam rooms, kitchens, and patient care hospital rooms. The microscopes common to all facilities are monocular, that is people use one eye, which is very tiresome. The optics are not adequate to the tasks required of them. Test tubes are glass, frequently stricken with jagged broken edges, which we would discard in less than a heartbeat. Glass slides are thick as plate glass windows, for they are washed and re-used. Ours are a quarter of the thickness, used once. Blood for transfusion is collected in plastic bags, and separated into glass bottles for plasma and red cells. Ours is collected in plastic with attached bags for the separate components and the blood is never exposed to air. When transfused from glass, the bottle must be vented to displace the blood. The vent is a needle poked through the rubber opening to let in air. Air goes through the blood (shiver). The bottles are washed, sterilized, and re-used. We used to do it this way in the fifties. When asked about the cost, the blood bank doctor/vice-administrator said of course the plastic is cheaper, because of labor to wash the glass, but the Health Minister would not let him change. I said fire his a—,he said yes but I’d lose my job — I said I know, I don’t have one to lose. For the next hour, we had a very lively and meaningful discussion about the responsibilities of citizens and the administration of public funds in a democracy. The minister is beholden to you, I argued. You both are beholden to the taxpayers. At the end of the day, I asked him if he had any questions of me. He said, “When are you coming back?” My eyes leaked.

The medical system is socialized. Everyone can get some kind of care. The population of Ukraine is around 45 million, with a birthrate plus immigration rate less than the death rate plus the emigration rate. The population is declining. birth defects, cancer, HIV/AIDS, multiple drug resistant tuberculosis (MDRTB) and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infection rates are increasing. Reliable, efficient, laboratory equipment and test results separate the well from the ill, and can help accurately focus resources on the areas of major benefit to the society by accurately documenting the sources of illness.

Ukraine is still a cash economy. We had trouble cashing traveler’s checks in the bank, but there are ATM’s everywhere. Credit can be had at the bank rate of about 12-14% (for a doctor) or higher. I SWORE an oath I would never get an ATM card, and used it for the very FIRST time in London so we could eat. Checks are useless. Greenbacks are worshipped but may not be exchanged on the street on pain of jail. I saw the hospitals. I did therefore not want to see the jail. We adjusted.

The microscope was very ceremoniously unpacked and reassembled at the Khmelnitsky Maternity Hospital in Chief Doctor Semenuk’s office and carried to the Cytogenetics Laboratory, where I plugged it in to the transformer with a WA9 fitting plugged into the wall and confidently switched it on. The light…did not…come on….my heart sank…skipped a beat…remembered the transformer switch… flicked it…voila! Cytogeneticist Natalya Karpekina wept. For months she and I penned, plotted and planned to get coagulation instruments for our colleagues. In the end, there are neither supporting computer and repair services, nor supply chain for consumables and reagents. The microscope, monitors and oximeters, however, are success stories. They can, and are, being used.

Before we left, Natalya detailed diagnostic success. In a dying newborn, she detected an extra chromosome with her microscope. The same slide on the Microstar IV showed the extra number 18 chromosome, a fatal disorder. As sad as it sounds, diagnostic accuracy helps people prevent repeat situations. For this couple, this does not have to happen again, for thus educated, they can seek alternatives. This is a medical victory.            

Conference on Spiritual Activism’ seeks to counter religious Right


According to organizers, six to eight hundred participants were expected. Some 1,300 people showed up.

Brainchild of the Tikkun Community — in Hebrew, tikkun olam means “healing the world” — the first “Conference on Spiritual Activism” was held at UC Berkeley July 20 through 23. The four days of speakers and workshops were designed to challenge the misuse of God by the Religious Right to justify its militarism, its dismantling of social and ecological programs, and its renewed assaults on the rights of women, gays and lesbians. Sponsors also hoped to counter the anti-spiritual biases reflected in certain segments of the Left, while proposing a “New Bottom Line” of generosity, ecological sensitivity and “wonder at the grandeur of the universe” to replace the dominant ethos of selfishness and materialism.

Participants were addressed by some forty nationally-known speakers, including the likes of Jim Wallis, George Lakoff, Bishop John Shelby Spong and Rabbi Michael Lerner — all of whom waived the high fees they often command out of their mutual enthusiasm for a new vision of “spiritual progressivism.” An equal number of presenters led afternoon workshops and work groups on topics ranging from the practice of non-violence to strategies for spiritual and political change.

Complemented by music from a score of talented vocalists, the Conference seemed part revival meeting, part activist rally. For many of us, it provided the first glimmerings of an answer to the selfishness and materialism pervading the world today, as well as an antidote to our sense of loss following last November’s Presidential election.

Naturally, there were a few minor disappointments. The majority of us were old enough to remember first-hand the spirit (and turbulence) of the Sixties. In other words, gray hair was over-represented. People of color and participants from outside the Judeo-Christian tradition were under-represented.

But there were also clear indications of the power of Spiritual Activism, with four new work groups arising spontaneously during the conference. One new group coalesced around women’s issues, while another sought to give voice to the diversity of ethnic minorities. A third group took on the task of conveying spiritual progressivism to our political parties, while an ad hoc youth-and-young-adult branch committed itself to conveying the message to the “next generation.”

In a rousing presentation at the final session, members of the youth group danced onto the stage to the beat of drums, then acknowledged their debt to their activist elders, asking that they continue to act as mentors. Each of the groups, in its own way, amply demonstrated the creative energy and progressive spirit of the conference. And if it’s true that the various factions comprising the Left are looking for a common mission to unite them, Spiritual Activism may just be the catalyst.

For us, the question now becomes, Where do we go from here? As conference organizers see it, the next step is to build a nationwide (if not international) Network of Spiritual Progressives (NSP). A second Conference of Spiritual Activism, dubbed the “platform conference,” has been scheduled for Spring, 2006, in Washington DC to achieve that goal. Meanwhile those of us who attended hope to start a local chapter of NSP here in Stanislaus County. To that end, an informational meeting will be held on Tuesday September 20, 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. at Congregation Beth Shalom, 1705 Sherwood Ave., Modesto. Look for details on other upcoming meetings and events in the October Connections.

ACTION: To join the local Network or inquire about the next meeting, contact Shelly Scribner, or Marianne Villalobos, or call Sandy Sample, 523-8445.


The great faiths have talked and pronounced peace; the faithful have not practiced it.

                                    — Ahrad Ahmad

I am convinced that the monologue of the Right is over, and the dialogue has begun.

                                    — Jim Wallis

The future rests on activist people becoming spiritual and spiritual people becoming activist.

                                    — Van Jones

Radical spiritual progressive activists built this country. We’re not the periphery; we’re the center… at the heart of the American tradition.

                                    — Robert Inchausti

If we don’t develop common universal values and norms, we will not be ancestors.

                                           — Jonathan Granoff


I went to the Conference eager to hear certain speakers whose vision and viewpoints I admired. I came back amazed by the diversity among the participants, compelled by the breadth of the vision as it was fleshed out, and filled with hope that together, we can create a more just and peaceful future.

    Sandy Sample


Not considering myself particularly spiritual, I attended the conference hoping to work with people who shared common ethical views and commitments. After experiencing the power of the common voice at the conference, I realized that working for peace, compassion, justice and oneness is spiritual.

                                                — Marianne Villalobos


The Conference has given me many new options. Being with 1,300 other people who believe in hope and change was very inspirational.    

                                                                  — Shelly Scribner


As someone who has worked for greater inter-religious understanding and cooperation for nearly three decades, it was an enormous boost to gather with so many like-minded people, share our journeys, and help chart a new future.

    Mark Haskett

This “mountain-top” experience challenged and inspired me with speakers who articulated so well the possibilities for a better America, energized me by the presence of 1,300 other persons of all faiths, and motivated me by its focus on the “inner life” as well as the “doing life.”    

                                                            — Pat Royer


OPINION: Ceres Parks Fee goes down to defeat


If ever there was an example of the failure of “ballot box budgeting,” here’s a classic example.

In July, the League of Women Voters was asked to monitor the ballot counting of a special measure in Ceres. Because of strictures imposed by Proposition 18, special fees to maintain new parks in Ceres required a vote of property owners. We were asked (by the company hired to conduct the election) because of our reputation for strictly fair and non-partisan work. The Modesto League has monitored and sometimes conducted several elections during its long history.

Ballots had to be sent to property owners, and the votes were weighted by the amount of property owned by them. This was not a vote where being a registered voter had anything to do with it (the more property you owned, the more votes one could cast; one vote for each property). The company hired to do the election was very professional.

The measure failed by 75 per cent. No one knows whether it would have passed had all registered voters been allowed to vote. But it is surely logical to assume that renters have children who might use the new parks, particularly children of low income residents who often have no place else to play.

The rationale for this sort of ballot initiative could be said to be that only those paying the taxes are those who should vote. On the other hand, landlords get their money from the renters. So who is benefiting?

Doug Lemcke, Parks Director of the City of Ceres, says that these parks, which are already owned by the city, cannot be developed nor maintained without the fees. Who is losing here? Tax cutting seems to have reached its zenith.

Aside from the process, the principle of Proposition 18 seems to be undemocratic. More and more, California’s Initiative process has taken away the decision powers of elected government. We see this process in action when vested interests spend millions to get initiatives on the ballot. Most such laws turn out to have “unintended consequences.”

Is it a good idea to have citizens vote on specific taxes? How can elected officials set priorities for what is most important, unless a budget process is open and is studied for all its effects? Although very few citizens actually follow the budget process, it affects all our lives.

Local ACLU Annual General Membership meeting and Board Member elections


Civilian Review and Police Accountability will be the subject of a talk by Mark Schlossberg, Police Practices Policy Director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California at the Stanislaus County Chapters Annual General Membership Meeting on September 26th, 2005. New Board Member elections will also be held that evening.

For information: Stanislaus County Chapter, American Civil Liberties Union, P.O. Box 576983, Modesto, CA 95357, (209) 522-0154,

Co-housing-Stanislaus County?


An introductory meeting on CO-HOUSING will be held Sunday, October 2 at 1:00 p.m. at the Unitarian/Universalist Fellowship of Stanislaus County, 2172 Kiernan Ave, and Modesto.

Sponsor: The UUFSC Social Action Council.

·        “Co-housing is the name of a type of collaborative housing that attempts to overcome the alienation of modern subdivisions in which no-one knows their neighbors, and there is no sense of community. It is characterized by private dwellings with their own kitchen, living-dining room etc, but also extensive common facilities. The common house may include a large dining room, kitchen, lounges, meeting rooms, recreation facilities, library, workshops, and children’s space.”

·        “The physical layout and orientation of the buildings (the site plan) encourages a sense of community. For example, the private residences are clustered on the site leaving more shared open space, the dwellings typically face each other across a pedestrian street or courtyard, and/or cars are parked on the periphery. The common house is often visible from the front door of every dwelling. But more important than any of these specifics is that the intent is to create a strong sense of community with design as one of the facilitators.” (same)

·        “Co-housing is a collaborative housing concept-a mini community in itself-where 20-35 families (typically) live in residential units along a pedestrian street or clustered around a courtyard. Residents of the community have several optional group meals in a common building each week.” (Modesto Bee, Valley Homes Section, July 30,2005, page 2,4 )

·        “Imagine owning a home where you know all your neighbors, in an environmentally sustainable neighborhood, with shared facilities such as children’s play areas, dining and workshops where individual homes open to a pedestrian pathway, in a community that you helped to create!” (Grass Valley project flyer)

·        There are clusters of these projects (about 14) in Northern California. Other California projects completed or in the planning stage include Fresno, Sacramento, Chico, Oakland, Berkeley, Emeryville, as well as Grass Valley and Nevada City, according to the cohousing website,

·         “There are also clusters in the Seattle area, Denver area, in Massachusetts, and the Washington D.C. area…” according to Joani Blank, Co-housing Association. (Modesto Bee)

.Interested in establishing such a community in our county? Or just curious?

Come and hear persons active in the Grass Valley project including Regina Wilson, a leader, and hopefully one of the architects involved, explain the project and explore how we might establish a similar project in our county

On October 2 Regina Wilson will also lead services at 9:15 and 11 a.m. at the Fellowship on aspects of this topic. All are invited.

ACTION: For information call: Martin J. Zonligt, 526-4979. For information on co-housing:

El Concilio Community Center needs volunteers, puts on awards dinner

El Concilio Community Center is recruiting tutors to help adults improve their English reading, writing and speaking skills. Tutors are volunteers who are willing to meet with a small group of students two days a week for about an hour and a half to two hours each time. English learners are matched with a tutor according to the days and times both the tutor and student are available.

Call 209-523-2860 to learn more.

Awards Dinner

The El Concilio Community Center 2005 Gala Dinner will be held Friday, September 23 at 6 p.m. at Del Rio Country Club, 801 Stewart Rd, Modesto.

The event will help to fund ongoing ESL, citizenship, reading and computer literacy, student tutoring, family and individual counseling, health awareness, and holiday gift basket programs.

La Raza and Amigo & Amiga of the Year Awards will be presented to two individuals and an organization in recognition of their contributions to the Latino community.

ACTION: Required reservations for the Gala at $75 per person or registration for classes, which are free or may have a minimal charge, can be make by e-mail at or by calling (209) 523-2860.


Tenth of each month. Submit peace, justice and environmentally friendly event notices to P.O. Box 134, Modesto, CA, 95353, or call 522-4967 or 575-4299, or email to Jim Costello. Free listings subject to space, availability and editing.