Online Edition: April 2008     Vol. XXI, No. 7

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), 5:00-6:00 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.


Peace & Justice

Around the Center: 

Living Lightly

Recipes from Connections

A Gathering of Voices--Ingrid Keriotis

Out and About


Masthead and Back Issues

Opinion and Letters to Connections

Interesting Web sites

COLONY COUNTY: An inter view with Karen Mosser


A beautiful orange cat, Eric, runs up to me, followed by a small adult black and white one. Then the old patriarch, Sylvester saunters up, followed by Oliver, a striped beautiful shorthair. Others follow until I’m surrounded by about 12-15 cats. The feral cats will stay behind the bushes until I leave. In all, their numbers exceed 20, or 30 or more. There are always more added, especially in the kitten season, others are subtracted. Some meet tragic ends at the hands of those who think its fun to launch a surprise attack on these cats with their dogs. But these cats I see before me are survivors — they have to be.

These are just one of hundreds (thousands?) of feline colonies throughout our county; the result of those people who do not think twice about discarding or abandoning their domestic cats when they do not want to be responsible pet owners. And so it begins. Wild kittens are born from domestics, creating a constant flow, each single cat being the starting point of hundreds more to come. No one cares? Well, some do: A LOT.

Meet Karen Mosser, a champion, an angel for these felines. She is one of several cat advocates who will not admit defeat in the face of so many complacent residents. People like Karen just try harder to get help for these animals while tending to the day-to-day care of keeping these animals as happy and healthy as possible.

Sally Mears: Karen, how long have you been involved in helping cats? Is it a lifelong thing or did a particular incident propel you into this?

Karen Mosser: In the year 2000 I went out to the Tuolumne River area and saw over 30 cats roaming around. None were fixed. So, I just bought some cages and got to work.

SM: What percentage of cats in these colonies are abandoned pets and actual wild ferals?

KM: Really none are truly wild since they all are from abandoned domestic cats that were simply dumped. All original cats started off at an address somewhere.

SM: Tell us about why you feel that so many people don’t alter their cats? And fill us in on the TNR approach and why it is effective.

KM: Of the people whom I’ve talked to, many do not have their pets altered [because it] is simply too expensive. Low cost spay/neuter programs are the only way to get this under control. Regarding the TNR, or Trap/Neuter/Release method, it was used originally in Great Britain right after the WWII. There was such an abundance of homeless, displaced animals that they needed to get it under control. The bottom line is, to quote a Roman saying, “culture dictates humane behavior.” The need was there so spay/neuter programs like these were born. Cats are trapped, fixed and returned to the colony to live out their days. This method came here over 30 years ago. Cats are territorial, so removing a colony just opens it up for another to move in its place. It doesn’t solve the main problem.

SM: I see a lot of homeless cats in these colonies with their ears tipped, which shows they are fixed. How are they getting fixed?

KM: Well, by us. A few years back there was a lady named Tammy Whitely. She’s since moved, but when she lived here she began to take other neighborhood cats to be fixed after her own cats were done. Well, that took her to the next street and so on. Basically you just get a couple of trapping cages, and sometimes with a help of a friend to shoo away the already fixed cats, you corral them or lure them into the cage and get it done.

SM: Someone once told me that it is illegal to feed stray cats. Is this true?

KM: Not only is it not illegal, but ever since the TNR method was endorsed by the County in 2004, people are helping cats more than ever now. It’s the same issue with dogs: We need low cost spay/neuter programs, and to have a mobile service that can provide these needs directly in low -income areas.

SM: I’ve watched all the good you and others have done for these cats. You are about action, not simply waiting and hoping.

KM: Every resident of Stanislaus County should be ashamed of the over-population of cats and dogs in this valley. Too many are killed at Animal Service because there are too many. The solution is simple SPAY & NEUTER. We need on-going, low-cost S/N in this valley. Both the Humane Society of Stanislaus County and Alley Cat Guardians are committed to making a significant impact on the county’s cat population but they need help from the community. Alley Cat Guardians is raising funds to open the first, much-needed, permanent facility for S/N of ferals and stray cats. The Humane Society of Stanislaus County is planning monthly clinics for pet cats. I ask the community to help these two wonderful organizations to reduce the cat over-population by volunteering, fund-raising and donating. I ask that more veterinarians volunteer for these on-going clinics and I thank the veterinarians that have given their time. These clinics are a blessing for the cats in Stanislaus County. Please support them.

KM: [Other] organizations I want to endorse are: Friends of Turlock, Oakdale’s Any Feline Rescue, Turlock’s Hope Rescue and ASA at Finch Road Animal Shelter. I could have never made it as a feral cat caregiver if it weren’t for the above organizations.

ACTION: Get involved!

• Friends of Turlock: John and Lee Ann Pinkerton, 634-6714, adoptions cat and dogs.

• Any Feline Rescue: Teri Stone 848-0773, adoptions cats.

• Animal Service Auxiliary: Mary Whetstone, 524-0669, adoptions cats and dogs.

• Hope Rescue: Brenda Sutherland, 667-4280, adoptions cats and dogs.

• Stanislaus County Humane Society Tame Cat Clinics,

• Alley Cat Guardians: TNR information, Feral Cat Clinic, 567-3570.

Come out to Earth Day in the Park on Saturday, April 19th at Graceada Park and meet Karen and many other local, caring people who do so much for the animals in our County.

Contact the author at (209) 652-4131, or, SEM, PO Box 12, Empire CA 95319.

THE LOWDOWN: The price of cheap goods


Like a cat watching the wrong mouse hole, we’re being told to look to Chinese manufacturers when assessing blame for the toxic products that ate being exported from there. But wait a minute—where, oh where, are our own country’s regulatory watchdogs?

The bog shock is not that the Chinese made toys laden with lead, but that America’s Consumer Product Safety Commission is a toothless watchdog that employs exactly one inspector to oversee the safety of all toys sold in the U.S. Likewise, the Food and Drug Administration has licensed 714 Chinese plants to manufacture key ingredients for a growing percentage of the antibiotics, painkillers, and other drugs we buy, but provides practically no oversight of these plants. In 2007, for example, the FDA inspected only thirteen of them.

An even bigger shock is that our consumer protection laws are so riddled with loopholes that unsafe products can legally come into our country. Take phthalate, a chemical additive in plastics that is suspected by scientists here and in Europe of inhibiting testosterone production in infant boys. Yet, Mark Schapiro, author of Exposed: The toxic Chemistry of Everyday Products and What’s at Stake for American Power, reports that while the European Union has banned the use of phthalates in products aimed at children under three years of age, our government has refused to act.

Thus, China has factories that manufacture two lines of toys—one without phthalates for shipment to European countries, and one with phthalates for export to our children.

The problem is not with the Chinese, but with our own corporate chieftains who have moved their manufacturing to China specifically to get these kinds of low-cost shortcuts in production, while simultaneously demanding that Washington cut back on regulations that protect us consumers. We must put our own house in order.

Such giants as Wal-Mart, Dell, and Disney are profiting enormously from this double whammy of low cost production and lackadaisical regulation. Not content to profiteer, however, the top executives insist that they should get credit for serving the moral good. Look, they say, we are helping American families by bringing cheap products to them.

What these moral exemplars don’t mention is that the goods are cheap only because the lives of the Chinese factory workers are so undervalued. It’s common to find child labor, sixteen-hour days, constant exposure to lead and other poisons, wage rip-offs, and other abuses in factories that stock the shelves of our stores and line the pockets of our corporate CEOs.

You want cheap? What’s a finger worth? A study of factories in just one area near Hong Kong found that workers there lose or break 40,000 fingers on the job every year.

Or consider the cheap treatment of a sixteen-year-old boy in China who works fro 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., six days a week, running a plastic molding machine to produce stuff for Wal-Mart stores. His hands are covered with blisters, because, as he explained to a New York Timers reporter, the machines are hot so I’ve burned my hands.” The boy’s reward is to be paid even less than China’s poverty-level minimum wage of 55 cents an hour.

Corporate officials here claim that they are appalled by these conditions, but they shrug and say they simply can’t keep track of what goes on in all the factories. BS! They’re the ones demanding cheap production, even if it cheapens lives in China and endangers consumers here.

Note that Wal-Mart boasts that it’s able to track every penny of cost in its sprawling system of procuring and marketing products. Its bean counters know the price of every item coming out of even the most remote Chinese factory. The corporation simply values price over lives.

Reprinted with permission from The Progressive, March, 2008.

Sailing the Southern Ocean to Antarctica


Lynn M. Hansen, Professor Emerita of Biological Sciences and Richard Anderson Professor of Microbiology at Modesto Junior College, participated in an eco-journey to Tierra del Fuego, Falklands, South Georgia, South Orkneys, Antarctic Peninsula, and Torres del Paine in Chile from December 30, 2007 through February 4, 2008. They will be present a program entitled "Sailing the Southern Ocean to Antarctica" for the Sierra Club on Friday April 18 at 6:45 p.m. in the Community Room of the Modesto Police Department. The following article highlights the Antarctica leg of their travels:

Harsh landscapes hold a special intrigue for my husband Richard and me. We have enjoyed rafting down the Colorado River, teaching field studies at Mono Lake, driving through the scablands of eastern Washington State and even spent our honeymoon in Death Valley! So it was no surprise to friends and family (who constantly asked “Why?”) that after three years of planning and saving, we embarked on a voyage to Antarctica, the “crystal desert” (Campbell, 2002) to sail the Southern Ocean and achieve another lifetime goal. Questions about our sanity rained down and intensified especially when the Explorer sunk slowly into the cold salty water off the Antarctic Peninsula four weeks before our departure. Our answer, “We want to see it before it is gone.” So armed with six layers of all-weather clothing plus sunscreen (should any flesh actually remain exposed), we were ready for wind, waves, rain, snow, sun, wild Zodiac rides, slippery rocky terrain and of course cold.

Our journey began, as many do, by flying (24 hours of planes and airports) to Ushuaia, Argentina to board the Polar Star, a 268 foot Norwegian double-hulled steel icebreaker designed to penetrate ice and even rescue ships from the ice. It served as our transportation, hotel, and base camp in the wilderness of the Southern OceanTogether with 120 passengers, crew and expedition staff, we would spend the next 27 days plying the dangerous waters of the Antarctic convergence where food is abundant and wildlife concentrations peak in January.

Our itinerary included sailing to the Falklands (or if your are Argentinean, the Malvinas), South Georgia, South Orkneys, Antarctic Peninsula, then returning to Ushuaia. To reach all of these places means several days at sea between landfalls with conditions ranging from 3-5 foot swells to a force 8 storm in the Drake Passage with up to 18 foot swells hitting the side of the ship for 2 days. Sailing the Southern Ocean is not for the queasy or faint of heartJ.

The ecosystem of the Antarctic and, to a great extent the Subantarctic Islands, is sea-based. Most of the landscape is without much vegetation: with little or no soil, lichens and mosses grow vigorously on rare exposures while a pearlwort and one grass tentatively grow on the Antarctic peninsula, representing the “flora” we saw there. The more northerly and “warmer” Subantarctic islands had an abundance of tussock grass, a native bunch grass, plus many non-native grasses and other invasive plants, resulting from early colonization of Falklands and South Georgia to establish sheep farms and whaling stations. Accompanying the plants came non-native animals such as rats and reindeer that take a toll on wildlife either directly or by damaging the fragile habitat and burrows of nesting seabirds. Currently effective restoration planting of tussock Grass and other native plants on Falkland Islands as well as rat eradication on Falkland Islands and a reindeer removal proposal on South Georgia are slowly producing positive ecological conditions in each place.


The problem of invasive plants was so severe on South Georgia that before we could visit these islands we had to intensively vacuum and clean our clothing. All clothing that would be worn ashore had to be certified as “clean” by expedition staff to help prevent transmission of hitchhiking plants. Then, before going ashore we disinfected our boots each time we left or returned to prevent disease transmission, such as bird cholera, as we traveled from island to island. All efforts were made to reduce the possibility of contaminating the islands we visited with undesirable biota.

Ecological problems of the Southern Ocean and islands are not restricted to invasive organisms. Other problems facing this fragile ecosystem include the trampling of fragile plants by an increasing steady stream of doting tourists, fishing for krill, overfishing and sometimes illegal fishing for Chilean sea bass (also known as Antarctic toothfish), long-line fishing operations that lack Albatross aversion devices on their lines causing Albatrosses to drown (some species of Albatross are declining at a rate of over 4% per year and will likely become extinct in our lifetime), and illegal whale hunting. South Georgia and Falklands both patrol their territorial waters to reduce violations of their fishing regulations, but effectively policing the vast Southern Ocean and Antarctica is virtually impossible.

A simplified food chain of the sea-based Southern Ocean ecosystem would begin with diatoms, small yellow-brown algae that can grow on the underside of ice in seawater at very cold temperatures (-4° C). This film of photosynthetic producers is grazed by a variety of crustaceans, the most abundant being krill. The several krill species can vary their size depending on temperature and other environmental factors. Virtually everything in the Southern Ocean depends on krill as a food source: large baleen whales such as the humpbacks and minkes, southern fur seals, crabeater seals (so-named since they eat krill that were misnamed crabs), Weddell seals, many species of penguins, squid and fish such as the midwater lantern fish. Southern elephant seals dive deep for squid so indirectly depend on krill. Some penguins diversify their diet by including lantern fish and squid, but all of them can and do eat krill, making the entire food chain of krill consumers vulnerable should the krill population crash. At the top of the food chain in these waters are the much-feared leopard seal and killer whale, skilled hunters of the consumers listed above.

In an effort to extend our adventure to others, I became a “Scientist at Sea” and communicated with school children, grades 1st through 5th via email to Anne Marie Bergen, Elementary Science Coordinator of Oakdale Unified School District. From the ship I chronicled our experiences and answered student questions about Antarctica and the Southern Ocean. These messages were then forwarded to Oakdale, Salida, Waterford and Freedom Elementary schools as well as friends and family. The following are excerpts from my email log and answers to their questions.

Did you see any Polar Bears? No. Polar Bears occur in the Arctic but not the Antarctic.

Have you seen any seals? Throughout this voyage I have seen southern elephant seals, crabeater seals, Weddell seals, leopard seals and hundreds of southern fur seals. The fur seals were scattered over the rocky beaches in Fortuna Bay, South Georgia and many other places. We saw many babies, females and juveniles as well as large males that could weigh more than 800 pounds. When one large male charged me, he bared all of his teeth. We were told to hold up our walking sticks toward the aggressive males like we had the "Force with us" and they would back down. If they got really close we were to tickle their whiskers using a
 walking stick and they would back off. That seemed to work, though I
 must say I was nervous when they would charge... they have very sharp, large canine teeth. The worst were the juvenile males who are smaller, much more aggressive and can move very fast!

How many different penguins did you see?

I saw 8 penguin species on this trip: Magellanic on Falkland Islands, rockhopper, king, gentoo, macaroni on South Georgia Island, chinstrap and adelie in the Antarctic Peninsula and South Orkney Islands, and one emperor juvenile adrift on an ice floe near Paulet Island in the Antarctic Peninsula. This was a surprise since the emperor penguin colonies are located on pack ice much farther south than we traveled. An emperor is very large, almost 3-4 feet tall, so it was no problem to identify that lone juvenile!

Penguin colonies we visited were located on beaches and high bluffs near the ocean where they could feed. Some penguins built their nests using tussock grass, mud and guano such as the rockhopper and macaroni, or rocks such as the gentoos, adelies and chinstraps. The Magellanic penguins dig burrows into soft soils found on the Falkland Islands. King penguins don’t build nests, but instead incubate a single egg on their feet much like the emperor penguins made famous by “March of the Penguins.” We saw stunning views in several places where over 150,000 breeding pairs of King penguins together with fluffy brown juvenile penguins called “oakum boys” were spread out as far as our eyes could see along a glacial streambed and upper beaches. (“oakum boys” is term borrowed from sailing history that described men who used pitch plus oakum fibers to make wooden sailing vessels waterproof and were often covered with the fibers making them brown in color.)    

Who are the penguin predators? The penguin predators include the leopard seal in the water, and the giant petrel and the skua on shore. Male and female penguin parents take turns sitting on the nest and feeding the chick. One parent defends the nest while the other goes out to feed, then when that parent returns they switch places. Adult penguins fiercely defend their nests and chicks. When a skua arrives, the penguin parent extends its neck, lowers its head and runs at the skua with beak open. The skua does not tangle with the adult penguin and goes where such vigilance is not displayed. Since both the giant petrel and the skua take young chicks from unguarded nests, we were careful not to disturb nesting penguins by staying at least 15 feet away from them. Disturbing these penguins could cause them to leave the nest briefly, giving the skuas or giant petrels a chance to swoop down and fly off with their young. There were also caracara, hawk-like birds, in the Falklands that are quick to grab chicks. The leopard seal preys on adult penguins.

How do penguins swim and breathe under water? Penguins can swim on the water’s surface and feed by picking up krill or other small crustaceans from the surface. They also submerge and fly through the water with their strong flippers (wings). Penguins do not breathe underwater, just like we don't breathe underwater. They have a membrane to allow them to close their nostrils and prevent water from going into their respiratory system. One scientist observed an emperor penguin staying underwater for about 22 minutes, and diving to a depth of
535 meters for fish. That is very deep and a long time without air! Penguins also porpoise like a dolphin, bursting out of the water to take a breath, then quickly diving in again. When returning to shore they shoot out of the water like torpedo onto the beach, then stand up and walk or hop up to their nests.

What did Sir Ernest Shackelton and his men eat when they ran out of food? In 1914, Shackleton embarked on a journey to the South Pole on the ship Endurance. When his ship became locked in pack ice then destroyed, he and his crew struggled 1˝ years to reach Elephant Island. Then taking only 5 men, he sailed in a 6-meter lifeboat, the James Caird, for 16 days to South Georgia Island to get help. They landed on the windward side of the island then hiked 36 hours across glaciers to Stromness Whaling station on the lee side. Their long beards and rotting clothes made them so scary that people who first saw them ran away. Finally he contacted the stationmaster, got warm food, a bath, some clean clothes and returned to the other side of the island with a ship to rescue the companions he had left there. Four months later Shackleton and his men sailed back to Antarctica to rescue the rest of his crew in August 1916. While the crew waited on Elephant Island for Shackleton, they had eaten seals and penguins. Amazingly, all his men survived this two-year ordeal. It is a wonderful story of leadership, courage, and luck! 

Was it cold in the Antarctic? The temperature in the Subantarctic islands ranged from 4° C in the morning to 15° C in the afternoon, especially if the sun was out. It was always windy. The weather changed rapidly, so it could be snowing one minute and sunny the next. I brought lots of warm clothes, and was never cold. The most important clothing was my waterproof and windproof outer jacket and pants, my version of penguin feathers! As we moved further south, it was a little colder. The coldest temperature we experienced was -2° C.

What is it like on the ship? The Polar Star was large, with five floors for passengers. My room was on the same floor as the dining room, and the wet room (where we left our wet boots and clothes that we wore outside viewing wildlife). There was also a library and a very large observation room where lectures were given and where we had snacks. Our cabin, #333, had two twin beds, a closet, a desk, a bathroom, and a small chest. We had two large windows (portholes). The cabin was like a dorm room at college. Sometimes it was hard to sleep on the ship, especially since I am not used to the sound of the big diesel engines. Sometimes the water was rough, so we rocked and rolled often. It was like sleeping in a swinging hammock. The first few days on the ship I felt a little seasick, but I took some anti-sea sick medicine that worked really well. The ocean water came over the ship’s deck when we went through Drake's Passage on the way home during a storm. Our porthole had to be covered with an iron plate to protect us, and Captain Adam ordered everyone to stay inside. He also frequently reminded us to have one hand hanging onto the ship at all times so that when the ship moves unexpectedly we wouldn’t fall down. I was the only person in my drawing class with teeth marks on my tablet because I carried it in my mouth, freeing both hands to hang on!

What do the stars and moon look like in the Southern Hemisphere? It was never really dark during our summer visit in the Antarctic. For example, on one day sunset was 12:30 a.m., sunrise was at 4:15 a.m. and it was bright twilight In between those times so we couldn’t see stars. The moon was bright enough to see, except if it was cloudy or stormy. I only saw the moon once, and it was in its first quarter. The interesting thing about the moon, however, was that the lighted side of the moon was on the left since we were in the southern hemisphere and were looking North to see the moon instead of South as we would here.

In summary, the children and adults eagerly received my emails and like many who have traveled to the Antarctic, we returned as changed people. Sights of a pristine rocky snow-capped wilderness, views of multiple shades of wave-sculptured blue ice, glimpses of penguins and fur seals porpoising by my window, encounters with albatrosses, prions, and petrels gliding with circumpolar winds over wild waves of the Southern Ocean, hearing the thundering sounds of cracking glaciers or raucous sounds and smells of penguin rookeries, seeing the elegant courtship ritual of the Wandering Albatross and having the sense of geographical isolation are all etched into my memory. It will be hard to top this experience. I now can resonate with the words of the renown ornithologist Robert Cushman Murphy (1912) “I now belong to a higher cult of mortals, for I have seen the albatross.”

Campbell, David G. 2002. The Crystal Desert: Summers in Antarctica. Houghton Mifflin Company, New York, N.Y.           

Aikido of Modesto offers free beginner lessons to supporters of the Peace Life Center


Aikido of Modesto, a non-profit organization, has generously offered free beginner lessons to members and supporters of the Peace/Life Center. Sessions will run from May 2 to June 9, Tuesdays and Thursdays, at 5:30-6:30 p.m. An introductory session will be held on Saturday, May 3 from 1-3 p.m. The normal cost is $99, including a gi (uniform), though that would not be included for participants attending free. Any loose, comfortable clothing would be appropriate, or one may buy a gi.

Aikido is a Japanese martial art that focuses not on "fighting" an attacker, but using their energy to gain control of them, and to prevent injury to the attacker as well as oneself. It places significant emphasis on the dynamics of movement. Aikido is known as "The Art of Peace," and sometimes translated as "The Way of Harmony of the Spirit." The most basic tenet of Aikido is the development of harmony and peace.

ACTION: If you are interested in attending these free sessions, contact Alexander Brittain, 324-9414 or so we can get an idea of potential attendance. You may also contact Aikido of Modesto for more information. Their dojo is at 1501 Coffee Rd., #L, Modesto, CA 95355. Their number is 209 526-7237, and their website:


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.