Helmet laws suck— or, watch out for that tree!
An Assembly bill that would let motorcycle riders tool around without helmets has passed the state Transportation Committee and is headed for a vote by the full Assembly. Though the bill, AB 2700, introduced by Assemblyman Dennis Mountjoy, R-Arcadia, was watered down to include stipulations that non-helmeted riders be at least 21 years old and carry proof of medical coverage worth at least $1 million, it still had a hard time passing the committee, squeaking by on a 10-7 vote.

Current laws have required motorcyclists to wear helmets since 1992. Advocates of the law say helmets save lives and cut down on state health care costs by as much as 35 percent. But many bikers have fought against helmet laws, insisting the so-called “head buckets” restrict rider vision and make riding less enjoyable. The California Highway Patrol, which advocates helmets as part of basic motorcycle safety, has taken no position on the bill.

A spokeswoman for Mountjoy said AB 2700 is about freedom.

“We have a lot of citizens who ride motorcycles in this state who feel like their freedoms are being taken from them [by mandatory helmet laws], and they resent that,” she said. “Right now we have troops in Afghanistan working to protect our freedom, and one of those freedoms is that people be able to enjoy the things they enjoy doing.”

The spokeswoman, who preferred not to give her name, said she personally always wears a helmet when riding a motorcycle.

CSU students decide to stay in Israel
With the volatility of the situation in Israel, California State University system officials have decided to cut its study abroad program in the region. The CSU and other school systems, like the University of California, won’t send groups of students over to Israeli universities while the institutions believe their safety is uncertain. Some students, though, think it’s worth the risk to remain in their host country.

Adam Ascherin is studying abroad through Chico State University. Enrolled at the University of Haifa, Ascherin, who’s Christian, has decided to stay in Israel despite the security issues. He’s created a Web site,, to explain his decision and give people back home a better understanding of what’s going on. So far, he writes, the violence thus mostly has been limited to the occupied Arab territories. In Israel proper the violence has been in the form of suicide bombs, and he’s decided that he’s safe as long as he avoids potential targets, such as busy restaurants.

Leo Van Cleve, director of international programs for the CSU, said that Ascherin was one of only two CSU students studying in Israel. “[The CSU] decided to suspend our operations in Israel,” he said, based on concerns for students’ safety. However, both students wanted to stay in Israel outside of the official program. Van Cleve said he doesn’t expect they’ll have trouble transferring their credits if they return to the CSU system. Van Cleve said interest in studying in Israel has declined amid the most recent violence. Last year, 11 students applied, but this year only six did so.

Professor Hanan Alexander, who serves as the academic head of Ascherin’s international program at Haifa, is disappointed in the CSU’s official action but pleased that the university system is allowing flexibility for its students. He stated in a press release that, unlike the UC action, which intimidated students into coming home and “plays directly into the hands of the international media message of the PLO,” the CSU action was more reasonable.

Even though terrorist attacks in Israel sound frighteningly prevalent to Americans, Alexander said students are "safer in Israel than on most college campuses. Unfortunately, rape, murder, and robbery are all too common on U.S. campuses."