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When ALL the Shit Hit the Fan! Bay News for this Week

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Heard any news lately?

Okay, jokes aside, just about every bit of Trump-related feces hit the rotating apparatus in the sky this past week, with most of it hurled in the past few days. But before we attempt to scrape it off and explain, let’s dig into some local stories that matter.

Brennan’s: “It’s time to say goodbye”

Brennan’s is one of those landmark establishments. Generations of memories were made (and forgotten) there. It’s the kind of place where 20-somethings can pull up a seat next to 70-somethings and argue about whether or not it’s acceptable to root for both the As and the Giants (survey says, it’s not acceptable at all). Ten years before the people rose up and fought for People’s Park, Brennan’s was there in Berkeley. It’s been the old, unpretentious and slightly trashy friend that keeps you grounded after you’ve found success – in a city where all that is unique is quickly going way of the gentrifier, Brennan’s was the place to remind you of where you came from.

Brennan’s in Berkeley. Photo courtesy of Berkeleyside

And that’s why it’s so damn sad that as the sports bar & grill, pub, drinking hole, divey delight celebrates its 60th anniversary, it is also preparing to close its doors for good. The family-owned hof brau-style restaurant and bar moved locations about 10 years ago, ending up at the train station area around the 4th Street mecca for the wealthy and gluttonous. The rent in that area steadily rises and as it turns out, people aren’t as keen on the liquid lunches common in decades past – simply, they’re struggling. Instead of raging against the machine of change, they’re bowing out gracefully. Brennan’s opened on  Jan. 16, 1959 (John Brennan’s 69th birthday) and will close for good Sept. 15.

On a personal note, Brennan’s was that multi-generational haunt for my family. When one of my grandfathers was 86’d from most Berkeley bars, he was welcome at Brennan’s. Before my grandmother passed away a few years ago, she made only one request: hold her memorial at Brennan’s. And we did just that. I don’t know about you, but I’ll be at her old stool in coming days to pour some out for the iconic bar that has meant so much to my family and to all of Berkeley – I suggest you do the same. Salut!

Seeking justice for Nia Wilson

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, about two dozen people showed up in a cramped courtroom Wednesday for what was scheduled as a plea hearing for John Lee Cowell, the man charged with the brutal stabbing murder of 18-year-old Nia Wilson and the attempted murder of her sister Letifah at the MacArthur BART Station in Oakland last month. However, the plea hearing was moved out to Sept. 14 following a new allegation of “lying in wait” submitted by prosecutors – the enhancement introduces the possibility of capital punishment. Wilson’s family and civil case legal team stated they support the new charges, which could amount to the death penalty for Cowell. Alameda County Public Defender Brendon Woods doesn’t believe the evidence is there to support the new charge and continues to refer to the suspect as “severely mentally ill,” a claim Wilson’s family and the community have little patience for.

Man holds sign during July 23, 2018 vigil that reads “Nia Wilson,” the name of the 18-year-old killed the night before, MacArthur BART station, Oakland, Calif. Photo by Nik Wojcik

The tragedy set off a chain of events in Oakland the day after the murder and the case, without a doubt, will be closely watched and scrutinized as it plays out on the legal battleground.

Ghost Ship trial delays

A “D&S” hearing was scheduled to occur Friday in Oakland to explore the parameters of the now pending trial for defendants Derick Almena and Max Harris. A sweet plea deal the two had previously agreed to was rejected by Judge Jim Cramer in a surprise ruling on August 10, following a brutally emotional two days of family impact statements. An in-depth look at that development can be read here. By rejecting the deal, the case was pushed into trial territory – something family and friends of the Ghost Ship Fire victims have very vocally supported.

It was announced Thursday that no further plea deals would be offered or entertained and the preliminary hearing was pushed back to Sept. 7 with a new jury trial trajectory left as the only option on the table, according the San Francisco Chronicle. The trial itself is not expected to begin until 2019, which the defense team hopes will be held outside of Oakland – they fear defendants will not receive a fair trial inside city limits where the tragic fire claimed 36 lives on Dec. 2, 2016.

Measles! Fricken’ measles!

Yeah, you heard me. If you’re one of the few people who avoided a measles vaccination, you may want to pay attention. A case of measles has been confirmed by the Contra Costa Public Health Department. The afflicted person traveled between Contra Costa County, Los Angeles County and Arizona while contagious. This is the first known case of the infection in three years.

Graphic courtesy of Discover Monteserrat

Paul Leung of CCPHD described symptoms and warning signs in an interview for KTVU. “It can start with cold-like symptoms. Fever, sore throat, cough. Then a rash will appear. It usually lasts a few days. It usually starts on the head and moves down the body. You are contagious four days before the rash appears and four days after,” said Leung.

The Lafayette restaurant Chow and Walnut Creek’s John Muir Hospital have been identified as two areas the infected person visited while contagious on Aug. 11 and Aug. 14, respectively. If you were in either location and have not been vaccinated against the airborne infection, you may want to keep an eye on your health and contact a medical professional immediately if you suspect anything unusual.


Trump under fire: What happens when all shit hits the fan?

There are several other stories that warrant attention (shout out to the As making a comeback), but at this point, we need to move on to the national stage to address the elephant in the White House. This is one of those weeks that we’ll be talking about when we’re old and grey – we’ll be trying to explain the events to our grandchildren the way our grandparents tried to explain Watergate to us. But this scandal has officially made Nixon look like a pansy.

Here’s the deal, in a really small nutshell.

Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen may be Trump’s demise. Photo illustration courtesy of Wired

August 21, 2018

That date now has a solid place in the history of the United States. It will likely be marked as the day Trump’s music died. First, Paul Manafort, the “president’s” former campaign manager saw the conclusion of the first of his criminal trials for fraud and tax evasion. The jury came back after days of detailed deliberation and found Manafort guilty of eight of 18 charges in the Southern District of New York. According to CNN, it was one juror who deadlocked the convictions for the remaining 10 counts, resulting in mistrial that can now be retried by prosecutors if they so choose. The convictions dished out on Tuesday alone could land Manafort a shady spot in prison for up to 80 years, and that doesn’t account for the still pending trial he faces in Washington D.C. next month. Although the “rocket docket” judge was adamant that Trump be left out of the proceedings, it was impossible to ignore the connection between Manafort and the sitting president.

On the same day, at almost the same time, Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen showed up in federal court where he basically turned himself in, had his Miranda Rights read by the judge and then plead guilty to eight charges, two of which are directly related to Trump and campaign finance violations. Those two charges will ripple out as the catalyst for all the crazy yet to come. While Cohen read his prepared statement in court, he was very clear that not only did he help divert campaign money to pay off the Commander in Chief’s old porn star flings with the explicit intention of impacting the election results, he dropped the bombshell by declaring that he was directed to do so by Trump himself. Trump denies any wrongdoing, of course, and has been on a social media and Fox News blitz to defend himself and discredit Cohen. Still, it stands that the president was implicated under oath as an “unindicted co-conspirator” in federal crimes.

Had enough? Too bad, there’s more.

Comments made by Cohen and his attorney Lanny Davis during court and in following press interviews indicated that the former attorney has far more information that he’s more than willing to share. That got the attention of the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance, which has been spearheading a probe into the Trump Foundation for some time. Subpoenas were issued Wednesday and Cohen jumped at the opportunity to cooperate in a case that puts Trump, the Trump Foundation and his family on the hook for “persistently illegal conduct” relating to the operations at the “nonprofit” foundation. Unlike the Manafort situation, this case will be resolved in a state court and will not be eligible for presidential pardon.

There’s still more. Hell, we haven’t even scratched the surface of what Robert Mueller and the special counsel have unearthed during their investigation into the Russian election “meddling” and Trump’s potential involvement. Cohen seems pretty keen on shedding light on that topic as well.

But I’m tired and I’m sure at this point, you all are as well. And honestly, isn’t that enough? Are we there yet? And what happens next as the country struggles to answer the gnawing question left open after the Nixon scandal?

Richard Nixon and Donald J. Trump. Graphic illustration courtesy of Foreign Po,licy

Can a sitting president be indicted?

I guess we’ll soon find out. One thing is certain, history was just made and this country will forever be changed – for better or for worse. That jury is still out on that.

Weird shit to do on your day off

Go to Brennan’s and shovel beer, meat and potatoes down your piehole!

Aside from that, after this very long week, the only thing I suggest this weekend is anything fun, anything not Trump or trial-related. Go hug people on the street. Go get drunk with your friends. Frolic in a park or take a drive up the coast. Go to your mom’s house and bake something together (and then get drunk). It doesn’t matter what you do, just do something that brings you joy and makes you forget for just a few minutes that the world is on fire.

Until next week good people, and especially to those in Hawaii right now, I wish you all “good night and good luck.”


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Nik Wojcik - East Bay Editor

Nik Wojcik - East Bay Editor

Journalist, editor, student, single mom to a pack of wolves, foodie, music lover, resident smart ass, and champion of vulgarity and human kindness.