Online Edition: January 2008     Vol. XXI, No. 5

sponsored by Peace Life Center, Public invited

  • MODESTO PEACE LIFE CENTER VIGILS: Monthly peace vigils are held THE FIRST FRIDAY of the month at McHenry Ave. and J St., (Five points), 4:30-5:30 pm. Call the Center for info: 529-5750.

  • Click here for peace action schedule around the area.

  • PEACE LIFE CENTER WILL BE OPEN WEDNESDAYS, Noon to 3 pm. Come by for coffee or tea and just to chat or look at our book and magazine collection. Bring your own bag lunch; there may be films some days. 720 13th St. Call us 529-5750, we'll get back to you with info on vigils and other activities.

Click Here to download the 2008 Peace Essay Flyer

Connections needs help!

Stanislaus Connections, the peace and justice newspaper of the Modesto Peace Life Center, needs volunteers able to help edit, write, or help put up the paper each month. We meet two times per month. If you are interested in helping with our progressive paper, contact us.

Email Jim Costello, or call 537-7818. Or call Myrtle Osner, 522-4967,

Saturday, February 23, 2008
Peace Life Center
720 13th St., Modesto
8:30 a.m. — 12:00 p.m.


Peace & Justice

Around the Center: 

Living Lightly

Recipes from Connections

A Gathering of Voices--Mike Killingsworth

Out and About


Masthead and Back Issues

Opinion and Letters to Connections

Interesting Web sites

MLK Commemoration hosts non-violence advocate Arun Gandhi


Arun Gandhi, noted peace advocate and grandson of Mahatma Gandhi will be the keynote speaker at our Fourteenth Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemoration on Saturday, February 2, 2008 at 7:00 p.m. at the Mary Stuart Rogers Student Learning Center on Modesto Junior College’s West Campus. Doors open at 6:00 p.m. Prior to Mr. Gandhi’s appearance, there will be a reception for him at the King-Kennedy Center, 601 S. Martin Luther King Dr., Modesto from 5:00 to 6:00 p.m. The public is invited.

Gandhi. The name evokes one of history’s most extraordinary leaders, Mahatma Gandhi, esteemed throughout the world for his integrity, courage, spiritual charisma, and steadfast commitment to end British colonial power in India through nonviolence. Arun Gandhi suffered racism in his native South Africa, and lived with his tireless but gentle grandfather during India’s most tumultuous period, from 1946 to 1948. These experiences shaped his life’s work as an advocate of nonviolence.

After returning to South Africa for 10 years and then working in India as a journalist and organizer for economic and social reform, Gandhi moved to the United States with his wife and two children in 1987. Four years later, he and his wife Sunanda founded the M.K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence in Memphis, Tennessee. Early this year he re-established the Institute in Rochester, New York. The Institute’s mission is to foster the understanding and practice of nonviolence through workshops, lectures, and community outreach programs.

A speaker of international acclaim, Arun Gandhi has spoken at hundreds of colleges and universities, and with corporate and civic organizations all over the world. He offers firsthand insights into one of history’s most influential leaders, and carries on his grandfather’s vision of nonviolence for today and for our future.

Although Martin Luther King, Jr. died nearly 40 years ago, his vision still uplifts and transforms countless people throughout the world. To keep that vision fresh and provocative locally, for the last thirteen years a committee of community groups—the Modesto Peace Life Center, the City of Modesto, Modesto Junior College, and California State University, Stanislaus—has offered our community an inspiring Martin Luther King Commemoration.

Over the years we have brought a stimulating array of powerful speakers to our community: ministers J. Alfred Smith of Oakland’s Allen Temple Baptist Church and Joseph Lowery of the SCLC; actors GregAlan Williams, Edward James Olmos, Danny Glover, and Mike Farrell; Dr. King’s daughter, the late Yolanda King; astronaut Dr. Mae Jemison; philosopher Cornel West; Indian activist Russell Means; and football coach Herman Boone. We have also presented a panel of community leaders addressing local issues and organized study circles on racism. Our speakers bring Dr. King’s philosophy of nonviolence into our contemporary reality by reflecting on their experience and social commitments. They connect the past with the present to inspire action for a more just and peaceful future.

We hope you will tell your friends about the event and attend yourself. We look forward to an inspiring presentation.

So that our event can be open to all, we do not charge the public to attend. We depend solely on a small city contribution and donations of money or services from caring groups and individuals in the community like you. We need your support.

ACTION: Please help us provide the community with this important remembrance of Martin Luther King, Jr. Make your check payable to the “Modesto Peace Life Center-MLK,” c/o Jim Costello, 1849 Richard Way, Ceres, CA 95307. The Modesto Peace Life Center is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization, tax ID # 94-2800825. For information, email, or call 209.575.7990, or 209.577.5355.

Sponsors at press time: City of Modesto Parks, Recreation and Neighborhoods Dept.; King-Kennedy Memorial Center; Modesto Peace Life Center; Modesto Junior College; Yosemite Community College District; California State University, Stanislaus Office of Student Learning; The Modesto Bee; Frailing, Rockwell & Kelly; The Women’s Auxiliary, Kaiser Permanente; Ruben Villalobos, Esq.; Project Sentinel; County Bank, Modesto Irrigation District, AARP; ASMJC.

Great reasons to hear the uplifting song of John McCutcheon in January


Three people who saw John McCutcheon in Modesto at his last live performance here, January 2007, shared reasons to take in his next Modesto appearance one night only on January 22, 2008.

Some saw last year's performance as a time to celebrate the aspirations of people working for a better world. They said McCutcheon's mix of stories and music revived a sense of community.

Grace Lieberman said she regularly attends McCutcheon's Modesto concerts. "John McCutcheon speaks to our hearts and minds to remind us that we are all one family on earth," said Lieberman of her experience of the 2007 concert. "We need that in these times, and he gives us hope through songs and through sharing together."

Dan Onorato said that he has attended practically every show McCutcheon has presented in Modesto. The 2007 appearance, Onorato said, "helped me feel that I wasn't alone." That spell of belonging helped Onorato feel "part of a larger group that cared about creating a more beautiful world."

Onorato says the singer's recorded music spices the months between live concerts. He said he often enjoys listening to McCutcheon's album "Mightier than the Sword" on road trips.

Local singer-songwriter John Bruce took in the concert from a unique perspective. Bruce opened for McCutcheon, an experience he compared to "Playing music with today's Seeger."

Describing the concert, Bruce zeroed in on the performer. "John made it feel like I was sitting on a sofa in his living room. I admire anyone who has the ability to do that." Bruce said that hearing McCutcheon perform helped him relax and connect to others better through his own music. "I don't take it as seriously. I feel at peace being with myself and with other people," said Bruce, reflecting on how McCutcheon's performance contributed to his own.

The concert will be held at the Modesto Church of the Brethren, 2301 Woodland Ave, Modesto at 7 p.m. Tickets are $20 in advance, $23 at the door. Groups of 10 or more are $15 per person. Youth 17 and under are $5. Tickets are available at the Church of the Brethren, 523-1438 and at Anderson Custom Framing and Gallery, 1323 J St., 579-9913. Sponsorships are available from $40 - $500 and come with tickets, special seating and a post-concert reception. Call Keith, 572-1307. [See the sponsorship form this issue.]

Stanislaus County’s own Humane Society: an interview with Traci Jennings


Finally: our own local Humane Society. Traci Jennings, president of the new Humane Society of Stanislaus County, and her wonderful board members have hit the ground running. Only in existence about 2 months, they have already made an impact. Traci has a varied background in many fields including the Armed Forces, and the legal field at Microsoft and Silicon Valley-based law firms. She acquired her extensive knowledge in many subjects by making it her life’s mission to educate herself, rather than rely on others. Her experiences have made her uniquely qualified to undertake this mission. Her volunteer career is just as vast. This was what carried her to this point, of starting the area’s first Humane Society.

I interviewed Traci in early in December:

Sally Mears: Traci, what prompted you to start this huge project? And why now? Isn’t our local County Animal Shelter providing services we need?

Traci Jennings: I took on the creation of Humane Society of Stanislaus County with the goal of improving the lives of companion animals in our community. The current shelter conditions are so inadequate that being a homeless pet in Stanislaus County is almost an automatic death sentence. Because of these conditions I filed a complaint with Stanislaus County Civil Grand Jury. By doing that I took on the responsibility to make a change. My belief is that no one has the right to complain unless they are willing to do something about it. The citizens of this county needed someone to step up. I knew if I did something, others would join. One of the great things about this country is the ability to say: “I don’t like the way things are being done, so I will start my project and do things differently.”

S.M.: I know that you’ve had a lot of positive responses, but there’s always criticism, too. What concerns have people had, and how do you address this?

T.J.: The main complaint I have received has been the perception that we, as a Humane Society, will siphon away resources. We do not receive any funding from the County, and expect none. We created a non-governmental entity to address issues that are currently not being addressed effectively. We operate via donations, memberships and sales of donated items. We can actually respond in a much faster, streamlined manner because we do not have the government red tape.

S.M.: One issue you feel very strongly about is animals getting dumped in the country, to “ live out their days on the farm”. What is the reality?

T.J.: I have been reaching out to the agricultural community, contacting educational groups (i.e. 4H) to highlight this issue, and the reality of what happens when animals get dumped in the country. Family farms that get unwanted pets are having to deal with someone else’s irresponsibility. Most of these poor animals have no survival skills, and will ultimately be killed by coyotes, cars or die of starvation. By nature, dogs form packs to hunt for survival, but many times are shot by farmers protecting their livestock. If this kind of pet dumping occurred in suburbia it would not be tolerated, and it shouldn’t be tolerated out in rural areas.

S.M.: Is Humane Stanislaus connected to Humane Society of the United States?

T.J.: No, we are not. HSUS provided some materials on how to set up a local Humane Society, but that’s pretty much it. We do purchase educational materials from their catalogs, but we do not give them money, nor do we pay dues or licensing fees.

S.M.: Are you connected with any animal welfare groups locally?

T.J.: I personally am involved in Shar Pei Rescue. As a Humane Society we are not connected to any Animal Welfare groups. I am trying to build some bridges between various groups as a way of maximizing the available resources.

S.M.: What are your short-term goals? Long term?

T.J.: Our short term goals are simple: Educate in the schools, provide spay/neuter programs, and deliver donated pet food to needy senior citizens with pets. In the long term, I envision a state-of-the-art Shelter /Adoption facility that is a model for others. I want to save animals and do it in a way the citizens of this county can be proud of.

S.M.: OK – so where do the rest of us fit into this? How can the average caring citizen help?

T.J.: Join as a member. Your membership is our most important asset. Volunteers are our lifeblood. We want people to be involved. We want to be out there working in the community and we want every person in this organization to feel and know they are valued and appreciated.

S.M.: You mentioned earlier about building a bridge between rescue groups, and there are many in this region. Logically, shouldn’t there be a way to connect these factions for the sake of the animals they are trying to help?

T.J.: I’ve begun the process to join the various groups together so we can collaborate. It’s not an easy process because many of these “mom and pop” rescues have formed as a result of bad experiences when volunteering for other rescues. By offering to act as a bridge we can help get more money from granting agencies to fulfill our goals. In most cases these small rescues won’t qualify, but acting as a lead or sponsoring agency we can open up opportunities.

S.M.: Thank you, Traci for taking on this project our County has needed for such a long time. Any final thoughts?

T.J.: I would like to extend the invitation to every citizen of Stanislaus County to join us. We are an agency that is accountable to our membership. If you want to change the way things are done, please add your voice to ours. We can make things happen, but only with a dedicated and motivated membership.

S.M.: How do we contact Humane Society of Stanislaus County?

T.J.: The easiest way is via our website: I also welcome phone calls: (209) 345-5967 or inquiries by mail: HSSC, 220 Cloverdale Ave., Modesto CA 95354. I personally return every phone call and email. That’s how important members are to me.

Note: All board meetings are open to the public. Find out when / where the next meeting is on their website, as well as all up coming events. Become a part of a better world for the animals of our region, and for us! Sally Mears, PO Box 12, Empire, CA 95316 (209) 652-4131

Nearly one in five Americans say they can’t afford needed health care

From the Centers for Disease Control (CDC)

Nearly one in five U.S. adults — more than 40 million people — report they do not have adequate access to the health care they need, according to the annual report on the nation’s health released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The report, Health, United States, 2007, is a compilation of more than 150 health tables prepared by CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics.

The report also contains a special section focusing on access to care, which shows that nearly 20 percent of adults reported that they needed and did not receive one or more of these services in the past year — medical care, prescription medicines, mental health care, dental care, or eyeglasses — because they could not afford them.

In 2005, nearly one in 10 people between the ages of 18 and 64 said they were unable to get necessary prescription drugs during the past 12 months due to cost. Nearly 10 percent said they delayed receiving needed medical care. This report did not study the relationship between access to health care services and health outcomes.

Other major findings of the report include:

The report features data on virtually every health topic from all stages of life, and does show a number of important gains:

The full Health, United States: 2007 is available at For more information about the latest Department of Health and Human Services initiatives proposed to provide affordable health care coverage to every American visit

“Each time we give up a bit of information about ourselves to the government, we give up some of our freedom. For the more the government or any institution knows about us, the more power it has over us. When the government knows all of our secrets, we stand naked before official power. Stripped of our privacy, we lose our rights and privileges. The Bill of Rights then becomes just so many words.”

                                    — Senator Sam Ervin, 1974

OPINION: Reflections on Stanislaus Connections


Sometimes the paperwork of my life gets a bit unmanageable  — newspapers I may never read, magazines older than 6 months, bills I need to pay, library books with looming due dates. At the end of the day, I sometimes dream about shredding it into a cloud of paper snowflakes.

However, when I finally picked up the November issue of Connections, I was glad it hadn’t been shredded. An article that resonated with me was “On the Road to Iran.” After reading it, I started thinking about the whole perspective of “other” and how easily people, places and things can be systematically labeled, categorized and vilified.

When the author and his wife (Wayne Schlegel and Leslie Potter) announce they will visit Iran, their friends and family let out a collective shriek. Even I felt scared for them. Their experiences were actually very positive, which reminded me of my own travels in 2003-04. Unable to find a friend to go with me, I announced my intention to travel to Mexico and parts of Central and Latin America solo. My friends and families response mirrored the author’s. Here are some of the things I heard (and I quote) “You’ll come back in a body bag,” “Haven’t you heard about sexual slavery?” and finally “Kidnapping and rape is so common there.”

To be honest, I almost cancelled the trip several times. After some serious reasoning with myself, I came to the conclusion that the statements made by friends and family were a voicing of their fears, based on their vilified perception of “other” that they believed to be true. (my apologies to those reading this who are native to lands below the U.S. border).

In the end, I decided not let their fears become my fears. I traveled for five months, learned a lot of Spanish, had a wonderful time and, along the way, gained many new perspectives.

During my travels, I had a conversation with a Japanese girl that really made me stop and think. We had become friends, and before parting ways, she invited me to visit her in Kyoto. In return, I invited her to visit me in California. As I said these words, she shook her head emphatically and said, “Oh, I would never visit the U.S. It is so dangerous, people get shot, mugged and stabbed there everyday.” I assured her that although those things did happen, it was really not as bad as it sounded. She, however, was not convinced and said “Come visit me in Japan, it’s safe there.”

It was kind of an epiphany. Throughout my travels, I began picking up more and more details about my country I had never before considered. In fact, the more people I met, the more I realized that my country was viewed much more negatively than I had first thought.

According to the Japanese, Canadians, Europeans, Australians, and Central and Latin Americans I met, most people in the U.S. are extremely violent. Our gangs are out of control, murders happen continuously, and I was even told that men from Modesto “hate women” (this was by a Mexican man, who had heard the news of the deaths of several Modesto women). Other stereotypes were that we eat too much and too fast, which is why we are all fat. Oh, and we suck at geography. After a while I felt like I had swallowed a huge dose of being “other.” I found I didn’t like it very much.

I had no way of disproving their theories. Especially since most often I was the only U.S. traveler at most hostels and Spanish learning institutions. Although I did not personally fit the stereotype they had heard, most stubbornly held onto their views of the U.S. It didn’t help that George W. Bush had just been elected fair and square. Add to their list “war mongers.”

Mark Twain said, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

And to quote Wayne Schlegel, “…how could we understand the world if we substituted the analysis of others for the insights we could gain from our own observations?”

I can only hope that the people who met me realized stereotyping all Americans is not a realistic thing to do. On the flip side, my travels changed most if not all of my views of the world and my own country. It has helped me strive to be a better person, a kinder person, someone who promotes peace.

In closing, I’d like to say “thanks” to this great little newspaper that allows me the freedom of speech to write about it.


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.