Karen Breslau

Stories by Karen Breslau

  • Jerry Brown Slams Bush on Environment

    He's already filed one lawsuit against the Bush administration over its environmental policies. As California's colorful attorney general arrives in Washington, he's threatening another.
  • Q&A: Gov. Sebelius on Disaster Relief

    Gov. Kathleen Sebelius caused a political storm when she warned the White House that the National Guard deployment in Iraq hurt her ability to respond to a home-state tornado. What happened next—and how it felt touring the wreckage with the president Wednesday.
  • 'We Are a Nation-State'

    INTERVIEW: 'The Governator' walks where Washington fears to tread when it comes to global warming.
  • Schwarzenegger's Crusade

    Carbon czar: California's Hummer-loving governor is turning the Golden State into the greenest in the land, a place where environmentalism and hedonism can coexist. How a star turned pol's become the muscle behind saving the planet.
  • Q&A: America's Political Divide

    Why does every election leave the country holding its collective breath? Why have campaigns become more bitter, even with increasing numbers of voters who identify with neither party? According to political scientists Earl Black and Merle Black in their new book, "Divided America: The Ferocious Power Struggle in American Politics" (Simon & Schuster), neither Democrats nor Republicans, neither conservatives nor liberals represent governing majorities in the United States. The parties, they write, "are locked in a power struggle in which victory or defeat is possible in every round of elections for every national institution." NEWSWEEK's Karen Breslau spoke with Merle Black, professor of politics and government at Emory University (and the twin brother of Earl Black, a professor of political science at Rice University), about his findings. Excerpts: ...
  • The Mayor's Mistress

    Gavin Newsom, the popular, handsome--and very available--mayor of San Francisco, was one of those men who could seemingly get any women they wanted. Since his 2005 divorce from Fox News commentator Kimberly Guilfoyle, he had become something of a man about town, spotted at all the fashionable places with various beautiful women on his arm.But the chatter over Newsom's dating life took a sharp turn away from mere amusement last Thursday, when the mayor admitted he'd had an affair with a female staffer who happened to be married to one of his closest friends. The San Francisco Chronicle, which broke the story, reported that the brief affair took place in 2005, when Newsom was in the midst of his divorce. His paramour worked as the mayor's appointments secretary. Her husband, one of Newsom's top advisers, worked down the hall. On Wednesday, according to the Chronicle, the betrayed husband, Alex Tourk, quit his job as manager of Newsom's re-election campaign after his wife, Ruby Rippey...
  • The Insurance Climate Change

    During the nine years she's lived in her historic sea captain's house on Cape Cod, Mass., Paula Aschettino never filed a claim against her homeowner's insurance policy. But last year she received a letter from her insurer, Hingham Mutual Group, canceling coverage on her nine-room, $600,000 oceanfront home, which has withstood its share of hurricanes since 1840. She and her husband, Michael, scrambled to find other insurance but were repeatedly denied. "They just said we are in a high-risk area," she says. A spokesman for Hingham, which canceled 9,000 Cape Cod policies, says that the company's own coverage--known as "reinsurance"--had doubled in the past year, making it necessary to withdraw from the coastal market.The Aschettinos finally found other insurance, but only for nearly double their old premium of $1,800, and with a sky-high deductible of $12,000 against wind damage. Incensed, Aschettino circulated a petition among her neighbors demanding price reform from industry...
  • Exclusive: Arnold's Primary Plan

    The U.S. Constitution prevents Austria-born Arnold Schwarzenegger from running for president. But California's GOP governor, sworn in last week for a second term, still plans on influencing the 2008 election. Schwarzenegger says he'd like to move the California primary from June--when both parties have all but picked their nominees--to a much earlier date, in February. "We shouldn't be treated as a leftover," Schwarzenegger told NEWSWEEK while at home in Los Angeles, where he was recovering from a broken leg after a skiing accident. "We will go and make a lot of noise about the issues." The governor hopes the change will encourage candidates to spend more time talking to voters in the nation's most populous state, instead of "sucking us dry for money" at fund-raisers. "We don't want to sit back and let this whole thing go by and have California not be a player," he says.The proposal would need to be brought to the state legislature and approved by a two-thirds vote. Schwarzenegger...
  • Majora Carter

    Growing up in the south Bronx, says Majora Carter, "it didn't occur to me that what I had here was an environment." Her neighborhood was surrounded by waste treatment plants, garbage dumps and power stations, and she glimpsed nature only when visiting the blueberry patch in her aunt's backyard in New Jersey. Since then, Carter, 40, has been making up for lost time. An artist and urban planner, she created Sustainable South Bronx (SSBX), an organization dedicated to the idea, says Carter, that "poor communities of color are just as deserving of clean air, clean water and open space as wealthier ones."For Carter, that has meant rallying residents to oppose even more dumping and waste treatment, while bringing nature to urban neighborhoods. Carter helped design the "green roof" above her headquarters and has started a "green collar" job-training program for South Bronx residents to install similar roof gardens, consisting of a thin layer of soil and dense vegetation, on other buildings...
  • Kathleen Sebelius

    During her first term in office, Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius so impressed the former head of the state's Republican Party that he became a Democrat in order to serve as her running mate in 2006. A pro-business, pro-military, pro-choice, fiscal conservative, Sebelius easily won re-election this fall, and has emerged as the dean of a new breed of Democrats taking over what was once reliably red terrain. In recent years Colorado, Oklahoma, Wyoming, Montana, Arizona and New Mexico have sent Democrats to the statehouse. Last month they helped elect Sebelius head of the Democratic Governors Association, fueling chatter that she would make a good vice presidential running mate in 2008.In Kansas, Sebelius helped revive the bankrupt school system and battled the Pentagon for better equipment for Kansas National Guard troops in Iraq. "Kansans are pragmatic," she says. "Results trump labels." It could be a winning formula elsewhere.
  • A Long-Delayed Homecoming

    They are daring to hope. As the hours count down, Jodi Velotta and other U.S. Army wives are beginning to think that this time it might really be true—their men are headed home from Iraq."It's a lot to know that the day is coming and I didn't wake up to that e-mail saying, ‘We've been extended,’” says Jodi, whose husband, Capt. Brad Velotta, commands a company in the 4-23 infantry battalion of the 172nd Stryker Brigade, based in Fort Wainwright, Alaska. “I'm like a kid everyday, thinking ‘One day closer, one day closer.’”Brad just called to say he was starting his trip home on Thanksgiving Day. They’ve had their hopes dashed before, of course—in late July, when the families were told the 172nd would be extended another four months in Baghdad after a year’s deployment in Mosul. Jodi has tried to make the waiting more bearable by going on a cleaning binge at her house. "It's kind of like having a baby, I'm nesting,” she says. She’s also preparing their two kids, Sophia, 3 1â„2, and...
  • A City Ripe for Satire

    In the days before YouTube and Comedy Central, a politician’s debut on “Saturday Night Live” was The Breakthrough Moment: a pol worth spoofing was a pol worth paying attention to. While the appearance of a prim, wide-eyed Nancy Pelosi look-alike on last week’s SNL didn’t get as much attention as it once might have, a few cultural truths did emerge.First, the nation’s first female Speaker is relentlessly, maddeningly poised. Whether embracing her one-time rival Steny Hoyer with a pained smile—as she was forced to Thursday on Capitol Hill after fellow Democrats elected him majority leader over her candidate, Rep. Jack Murtha—or, as her look-alike did on SNL, shooing away a male couple in leather bondage gear who kept stumbling into her congressional office, Pelosi is becoming known to the public as the woman who smiles through it all, as if posing for her family’s Christmas card photo while the kids pinch each other and the dog chases the cat around the tree.Secondly, San Francisco,...
  • Arnold Comes Back

    “I love doing sequels,” said a jubilant Arnold Schwarzenegger after his landslide re-election Tuesday night. There have been plenty to choose from. Since he became governor of California in the madcap 2003 recall election, Schwarzenegger has dished up political drama on a schedule that would thrill the most demanding Hollywood producer.First, there was Arnold the ribald show-biz maverick, who declared his candidacy on “The Tonight Show” and then governed from the center in year one of his reign; followed by Arnold, the hard-edged Republican in 2005, who alienated the state’s Democratic majority with an ill-fated special election that blew up in his face. In 2006, there was “postpartisan” Arnold, the environmentally progressive, socially liberal, fiscal conservative who must now qualify as the happiest Republican in America, having demolished his Democratic opponent Phil Angelides in the country’s bluest state by nearly 20 points. (Keep in mind that John Kerry beat George Bush here...
  • The Making of a Dissident

    For the first year of her husband's deployment with the 172nd Stryker Brigade, Tamara Bell says she was a "good Army wife." She supported her husband's mission and trusted the military to bring him home safely—and on time. After all, Tamara, 32, grew up as a Navy brat, and she and Staff Sgt. Edward Bell have been married for 12 years, weathering several overseas deployments in South Korea, Bosnia and the initial invasion of Iraq in 2003, when Edward was with one of the first units to enter Baghdad. Even during his second Iraq deployment, Tamara, waiting at home in Fairbanks, Alaska, with the couple's infant son, did everything she could to keep her spirits up. She and Edward counted the days remaining in full moons ("It seems a lot shorter that way") and communicated nonstop about their baby Nicholas, now 11 months old, whom Edward last saw at birth.But last July, only days before Edward was to return home to Fairbanks following a year of combat duty in Mosul, Tamara learned that...
  • An Unblinking Look at Suicide

    Viewers of  “The Bridge,” Eric Steel’s new documentary about suicide on the Golden Gate Bridge, won’t have to wonder for long what it feels like to sit in a movie theater seat, waiting to watch someone commit suicide. After a three-minute opening sequence of  postcard-perfect images—the iconic art deco towers of the Golden Gate Bridge rising through the fog, cruise ships and pelicans drifting over an impossibly beautiful horizon—the camera zooms in on a heavy, middle-aged man in a green T shirt who clambers over the railing with startling speed, settles into a sitting position for just a moment, then hurls himself face first, his feet pedaling in midair, until, a few seconds later, he splashes into the waters of the San Francisco Bay. The death is the first of nearly two dozen suicides that Steel and his crew recorded when they set their cameras on the bridge in 2004, capturing every daylight moment for a year. “Most suicides take place in extreme privacy,” says Steel. “I wondered...
  • Business: Go Green, Get Green

    The clean-tech industry got a boost when Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill requiring California's businesses to cut their greenhouse gas emissions 25 percent by 2020. This year so far, says the CleanTech venture network, $1.4 billion in venture capital has flowed to companies such as solar, ethanol, biodiesel and "green" building firms. Companies who may profit in California's green economy: ...
  • How Green Is My God?

    Is God Green? Bill Moyers wants to know. The veteran journalist says he was motivated to explore the deepening divide among evangelical Christians over how to respond to environmental concerns—especially global warming—in part because of his own evangelical upbringing. “Environmentalists were regarded as dangerously secular, people to be avoided,” he says.  But that may be changing. In his new documentary, to air Oct. 11 on PBS stations nationwide, Moyers examines a new movement among conservative Christians who view the fight against global warming as a religious obligation. Bill Moyers recently spoke with NEWSWEEK’s Karen Breslau about “Is God Green?” The show is the second installment of his three-part, election year series, “On America” (the first was about the Jack Abramoff scandal). Excerpts:NEWSWEEK: What made you want to take on evangelicals and global warming?Bill Moyers: Last year, when a large group of influential evangelicals issued their “Call for Climate Action,”...
  • Healing War's Wounds

    Hey, have any of y'all seen the crocodile that got my arm?" U.S. Army Maj. Anthony Smith hoists his prosthetic hook, tied to a paddle, as he floats down Idaho's Salmon River in a large blue raft, manned by a cackling crew of fellow amputees. Momentarily rattled, a group of rafters resting onshore stare as Smith's boat glides by, before someone on the beach points down the rapids and yells, "He went that-a-way." Smith, digging his paddle back into the water, growls with mock pirate glee. "You should see what happens when I'm in a restaurant and I say to the waitress 'Can you give me a hand?' "He can laugh now. It's the surest sign yet of the progress he's made since April 24, 2004, when Smith, then a captain with an Arkansas National Guard unit stationed near Baghdad, was struck by a rocket-propelled grenade. The three-foot-long missile lodged in his right hip, exploding as Smith's commanding officer rushed to help him. The blast cut Smith's rescuer in half. It blew off Smith's right...
  • An Alarming Shooting in Seattle

    Visitors to the Jewish Federation building in downtown Seattle pass through bulletproof glass doors to enter the building and then must enter a keycode to get past the lobby. Video cameras record every move. Yet a man somehow slipped in behind an approved visitor late last Friday afternoon. "I am a Muslim American," witnesses reported hearing Naveed Haq say. "I am angry at Israel." Armed with a semiautomatic handgun, Seattle police say, the 30-year-old Haq shot a receptionist, then ordered her to call 911 and rambled to an operator before shooting five more employees. Police say Haq surrendered 15 minutes later. One of his victims died; others are critically wounded.Authorities immediately classified the shooting as a hate crime, adding to the shock in historically tolerant Seattle, where relations between Jews and Muslims have long been "cordial," says Rob Jacobs of the Anti-Defamation League. Investigators believe Haq, a Washington resident of Pakistani heritage, acted alone....
  • The Mean Green Machine

    He's put the hummers in storage. He's told friends he was deeply impressed by Al Gore's new global-warming movie, "An Inconvenient Truth." And as Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger hit the campaign trail last week, he had a new look: a bright green bus emblazoned with a mural of Yosemite National Park. At Schwarzenegger's first stop, near Redding, Calif., along the banks of the picturesque Sacramento River, a woman asked him what he'd do about high gas prices. Schwarzenegger promised to go after price-gouging oil companies, then launched passionately into his plan to build a "Hydrogen Highway" and to impose strict limits on greenhouse-gas emissions, making California a model for the nation. "You have to have a vision of a clean California," he said. "And then go out and build it."Schwarzenegger talked about environmental issues in his maiden political voyage three years ago, but not like this; in 2006 he's made it a centerpiece of his re-election campaign. For a Republican on the ballot in...
  • It Can Pay to Be Green

    Dennis Haubenschild's holsteins produce nearly 60,000 pounds of milk a day, providing the Minnesota farmer with annual revenue of about $2 million. The cows also produce 20,000 gallons of manure daily, which, believe it or not, makes him money as well. Several years ago, Haubenschild installed a "methane digester" that uses manure as fuel and generates enough electricity to power the 1,000-acre farm and 70 nearby houses. Since last October, for every ton of methane or carbon dioxide he uses to produce electricity (and keeps from being released into the atmosphere to contribute to global warming), he also gets to sell a credit on the fledgling Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX), a voluntary market designed to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions in the United States. Haubenschild's manure revenue to date: about $10,000.It may seem like a drop in the farmer's bucket, but a booming global market is emerging for anyone who can take carbon out of the atmosphere, whether through innovative...
  • Pricing Pollution

    How much is clean air worth? That's a question Richard Sandor, founder of the Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX), thinks the free market can answer best. The exchange , which started trading on Earth Day in April 2003 , takes aim at global warming by allowing members to trade credits earned for reducing their greenhouse-gas emissions. Sandor, an economist, is no stranger to novel—and controversial—financial products. In the 1970s, he developed the financial futures market on the Chicago Board of Trade to take advantage of newly deregulated interest rates. In the early 1990s, Sandor proposed a "cap and trade" system to reduce the pollutants that caused acid rain. Companies able to exceed reduction targets set by the 1990 Clean Air Act could sell emission credits to those who didn't, creating cost incentives for clean technology and leading to an overall decline in emissions years ahead of schedule.The Chicago Climate Exchange is based on a similar principle. Members agree to cut their...
  • A Question of 'When'

    This Tuesday at 5:12 a.m., Diane Brockob plans to be downtown on Market Street in San Francisco to mark the precise moment 100 years ago that the San Andreas Fault tore open, killing 3,000 people, leveling large parts of the city and leaving the rest to be devoured by fire. Like many San Franciscans, Brockob balances a rational understanding of history with a romantic attachment to the city's charms. Brockob and her husband, Bob, live in the Marina district, where multimillion-dollar homes sit on Jell-O-like landfill. "I know it's insane," she says. The couple, avid kayakers, rented their apartment because they couldn't resist easy access to the bay and the sweeping views of the Golden Gate Bridge. "We know about the risks," says Bob. "But we wouldn't want to live anywhere else."That sense of pragmatic fatalism--along with a healthy dose of campy excess--will prevail in San Francisco this week as the city commemorates the centennial of the Great Quake of 1906. This year, the...
  • Real Estate: Prepare to Be Zillowed

    Plug in your address at zillow.com, and you get an aerial photographic map that shows the home's estimated market value. Or, you can check out the value of someone else's home, which explains why the site is winning a rabid following in the cities where the raw data used for the valuation are best: Seattle, L.A., San Francisco and Boston. Spencer Raskoff, zillow's CFO, spoke with NEWSWEEK's Karen Breslau:That was our hope. Zillow stands for "zillions of pillows." The zillion stands for the massive amount of data we have to calculate the valuations of 65 million homes. Pillows is evocative of the home. Every real-estate transaction has the hard, analytical side, as well as the soft, squishy side.Zillowers are looking at their boss, ex-wife, the girl they didn't marry. We've heard great stories about people zillowing blind dates or job candidates. I knew we made it when my mother-in-law told me the ladies at her beauty parlor zillowed each other's houses.The "zestimate" is only as...
  • Living on the Edge

    It’s hard to imagine future generations in New Orleans gathering even 200 years from now outside the Superdome to parade around in period costumes from 2005 and celebrate their city’s renaissance—certainly not with the frivolity on display in San Francisco this week. With the wounds of the nation’s last great natural disaster so fresh, many wondered how San Francisco would pull off the centennial observations of the Great Earthquake and Fire of 1906 that left destruction so complete that Jack London, then a newspaper correspondent, wired his East Coast editors, "San Francisco is gone; nothing remains of it but memories."That line drew a defiant chuckle from the thousands who gathered in the darkness Tuesday morning for an annual ritual to commemorate the 3,000 who perished in 1906, but more importantly to revel in the spirit that allowed San Francisco to dust itself off from what, until Katrina, was the worst natural disaster to befall an American city. There was, to be sure, plenty...
  • Till Faucets Do Us Part

    On television decorating shows, the featured couple is inevitably cheerful and agreeable: cooing as they examine tile samples, nudging each other with mutual delight as they shop for chandeliers. But as anyone who has been through a real-life home-renovation project knows, suppressing the urge to clobber your spouse with a piece of crown molding can also be part of the experience. "Going through a remodel can push a couple to the edge," says Rachel Cox, a marriage and family therapist in Palo Alto, Calif. "Every tension they have gets magnified a hundredfold."Cox would know--she specializes in counseling couples facing the stress of home renovation. It's not just battles over cherrywood versus bamboo flooring. Remodeling projects, says Cox, ultimately boil down to "money, time, energy and power," the very things that can make--or break--a marriage. "These projects reveal deeper issues," agrees Dr. Judy Kuriansky, a psychology professor at Columbia University.Although some couples do...
  • California: Can They Still Be Called 'Special' Elections?

    On Nov. 8, Californians will go to the polls for a special election. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is asking voters to approve measures on the way congressional districts are drawn; how the budget is decided; whether union dues can be used for political purposes; and when teachers can receive tenure. He wants to reform California's "broken system." Opponents say he's trying to crush labor unions and wasting taxpayer money. California's special election, by the numbers.
  • A New Team in Town

    The three-alarm fire had already claimed three lives. When San Francisco Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White arrived at the burning downtown tenement in the middle of one night last month, she noticed several residents huddled on the sidewalk refusing treatment from her paramedics. Gently quizzing the terrified survivors in Spanish, the chief learned why: the illegal migrants, who were living 12 to a room when a mattress caught fire, feared that their rescuers would turn them in for deportation. Hayes-White assured them that wouldn't happen. Then she summoned a bilingual officer to continue comforting the survivors while they received first aid. "People think it's all brawn," she says. "But more often than not, this is a job that requires a lot of interaction with people. There's a real sense of calm that comes in a crisis when you relate to someone who looks like you, speaks like you and thinks like you."Luckily for Hayes-White, in San Francisco she has plenty of other women to lean on...
  • Some Are Found, All Are Lost

    First, the ferocious wind ripped off huge chunks of their roof. Then huge waves surged through the Lower Ninth Ward and forced Lisa Moore and Larry Morgan and their 10 children into the broiling heat of the attic. For four days, the Moores struggled to survive on a couple of cans of fruit cocktail. Larry painstakingly squeezed drops of juice into the mouths of the youngest children, who were withering from dehydration. The desperate parents worked out a system: one remained in the attic with the kids while the other stood on the remains of the roof, waving a towel to attract the helicopters they could see on the horizon. "We hollered and hollered," says Lisa. "Nobody stopped." On Aug. 31, when a chopper finally hovered overhead, the family faced a nightmarish dilemma. "I can only take five," their rescuer shouted. The four youngest children, especially 2-year-old Irielle, were growing weaker by the hour, so Lisa and Larry handed them into the sky. Then Larry grabbed 13-year-old O...
  • CRACKING A HORRIBLE CODE

    The spiral notebooks have brightly colored covers and look as though they might belong to a schoolchild. But police in San Jose, Calif., who seized the notebooks from the home of a suspected pedophile last week, say they contain the chilling records of a man who may be the most prolific child molester the country has ever known. Police say Arthur Dean Schwartzmiller, who was arrested last month on charges of molesting two 12-year-old boys in San Jose, recorded some 36,000 hand-written entries, each in meticulous black script noting names or code names for his young victims, along with cryptic references to acts of sexual abuse. Investigators, who are trying to decipher what appear to be "scorekeeping" logs, have appealed to the public for help in putting together a timeline of Schwartzmiller's travels. While it's still unclear how many children may have been abused (there may be multiple entries per victim), "if this guy is even a tenth as active as indicated here, then this is a...
  • FIGURING OUT THE 'FELON VOTE'

    It's a long way from Florida. But a bitter post-election battle in Washington could make the Sunshine State's 2000 debacle look like a good government project. In a courtroom in Wenatchee last week, lawyers for defeated GOP candidate Dino Rossi, who lost last year's governor's race by 129 votes to Democrat Christine Gregoire, said that "bungling bureaucrats" permitted improprieties that gave Gregoire her razor-thin margin--and only then after two recounts. Rossi is suing to have the election nullified, which means Gregoire would be replaced by the state's lieutenant governor, another Democrat, until a new election is held. "I'm not saying I should be installed as governor," Rossi told NEWSWEEK. "I've only said we don't know who really won the election."Democrats acknowledge a "bumpy" election, but say the irregularities were due to the strain on the system brought on by last year's 82 percent turnout, not by fraud. Both parties have "felon lists" of 500 to 700 voters who should not...