CALIFORNIA
Essential California: No relief for the drought, Harrison Ford recovers from crash, mountain lions' family portrait
Robin Abcarian Commentary, news and analysis
Groundbreaking textbook makes the case for reproductive justice field

In Boalt Hall's faculty lounge the other day, UC Berkeley Law professor Melissa Murray was telling me about some of the cases she and her colleague Kristin Luker included in their groundbreaking legal casebook about reproductive justice.

Of course the book includes benchmark Supreme Court decisions that everyone's heard of, the ones that struck down laws against abortion, contraception and sodomy. But it also includes less familiar cases, sometimes significant but often overlooked markers — or bumps — on the road to equality.

I'd never heard of Susan Fejes, a Colorado blackjack dealer and new mother who unsuccessfully sued a casino in 1997 because it would not accommodate her lactation schedule.

"There was no place for her to express milk, and the court's like, 'There doesn't need to be!'" said Murray, 39, who was once accused in a Berkeley restaurant of feeding her infant son "poison" because he was drinking from a bottle.

"We may have a culture that prioritizes breast feeding," she...

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Amid drought, a turf war between residents and homeowners associations

Rancho Pacifica, a gated community of spectacular multimillion dollar homes in the hills east of Del Mar, is not immune to the ravages of the California drought. Residents, who can easily afford massive water bills, have sought to reduce their water consumption — not just because they have to, but because they want to.

Brian and Frances Holloway, retired custom home builders who live in a palatial 9,000-square-foot Mediterranean, installed artificial turf in their backyard five years ago. After Gov. Jerry Brown declared a drought emergency last year and urged Californians to reduce their water consumption by 20%, the couple decided to get rid of their water-sucking front lawn as well.

Not so fast, said their homeowners association. Like many HOAs in upscale neighborhoods around the state, it keeps an iron grip on issues like house color, alterations, parking and landscaping. Now, the Holloways are locked in an escalating struggle with their HOA.

"They have to control everyone's life,"...

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It's not (quite) so lonely anymore for gay California Republicans

Saturday, on the eve of the California Republican Party’s historic vote formally welcoming gay Republicans into the fold, a dapper 75-year-old named Fred Schein described his challenges.

“It’s very lonely being a gay Republican,” said Schein, who is president of San Francisco’s Log Cabin Republican chapter. “It really is. We take a lot of abuse.”

Given where he lives, I’m pretty sure he was talking about abuse from liberal Democratic types, but he might as well have been talking about some of his fellow Republicans, who have long tried to keep their gay brethren at arm’s length.

Imagine working your heart out for your party -- helping, for instance, wipe away the legislative super-majority that California Democrats briefly enjoyed, then being told you don’t really belong in the party in any official way because your group, by definition, promotes a “lifestyle” incompatible with conservative values.

“I’ve seen some pretty ugly stuff,” said Schein. “You can’t be a gay Republican for 30...

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Women are setting the stage for a red-carpet rebellion

The red carpet, I've always thought, is Hollywood back-scratching at its best.

Celebrities, treated more or less like objects, get free publicity, free dresses and the warm glow of knowing that they've reached the top. In turn, fashion designers and stylists get the kind of exposure that only enhances their businesses and reputations.

Everybody's happy, right?

OSCARS: The movies, the actors, more

But even viewers who don't know a peplum from a pothole can see that something is amiss when a star is asked about her dress and pretends not to understand the question.

"I don't know what to say," Nicole Kidman told Ryan Seacrest on the Grammys red carpet Feb. 8, when she and her husband, country music star Keith Urban, paused to chat.

Kidman is a fashion icon. She has worn some of the most spectacular haute couture that has ever appeared on the red carpet, and has been richly rewarded with fashion and cosmetics contracts. Was she just in a bad mood? Had she actually purchased her Thierry...

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From young cancer patient's parents, a special plea to vaccinate

When I walked through the door of Carl and Jodi Krawitt's well-appointed hillside home the other day, I could tell their 6-year-old son Rhett was not super happy to see me. I'd interrupted him as he was getting ready for a swimming lesson. It was easy to read his expression:

Please mom and dad. Not another reporter?

I don't blame him.

Quite unexpectedly, Rhett has become the angelic public face of the pro-vaccination movement in California. Almost four years ago, Rhett was diagnosed with leukemia. He spent 156 nights total in the hospital, his father told me.

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FOR THE RECORD: An earlier version of this column said that Rhett Krawitt spent 186 nights in the hospital. It was 156.

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Rhett missed out on swimming lessons for years because he had a port in his chest that couldn't get wet. Although he looks perfectly healthy now, years of chemotherapy and other drugs have temporarily weakened his immune system. He can't yet tolerate vaccines.

When the measles outbreak...

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Yes, you can check your cellphone while driving -- but is it worth it?

Last September, Andreas Sundquist was on his way to San Francisco International Airport to pick up his girlfriend when traffic on Highway 101 near Redwood City suddenly came to a stop. Fearing he'd be late, he picked up his smartphone to check the GPS map. Was it road work? Had there been a fender bender? Or something worse?

A CHP officer who saw Sundquist, 35, look at his phone pulled him over and gave him a $162 ticket for violating Section 23123 (a) of the California Vehicle Code, which prohibits using a cellphone while driving. Sundquist was confused. He thought he had read that it was OK to look at a GPS map while behind the wheel.

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FOR THE RECORD:

California Journal: A column in the Jan. 31 California section about checking cellphone maps while driving misidentified California's 5th District Court of Appeal as the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.
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"But since this person in authority was giving me a ticket," he said, "I was like, whoops, I guess I messed up."

...

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