Ask Alexandra – March 2007

Question #1:

Dear Alexandra,

I have been a big fan of yours for as long as I can remember. I have admired so much of your acting work, as well as your activism. You have really been a true inspiration to me as well as millions of other people out there. I have been a fan of this site for some time now, but have never asked a question. When you speak about your first arrest, you say “The officers were very good at putting me in handcuffs and putting me up against the wall”. What do you mean by that exactly? Also, when you were in jail, what was it that got you through it? That can be an extremely difficult process, and I was wondering how you managed to get through your sentence.


Dear Justin,

I meant that the police were very smooth at doing it. As an actress, I have played cops, so I know it takes a lot of practice to be able to cuff someone with grace. They were not rough, it didn’t hurt. The whole arrest was very civilized and respectful on both our sides, right down to the cuffing and pat down. I believe with all my heart that civil disobedience must be non-aggressive, especially if you are protesting for peace!

The thing that got me through being in jail for 5 days was that I felt deep in my heart that I was doing the right thing; that being in federal lockup was a continuation of my protest against the federal government for starting an illegal and unjust war against Iraq. I was very scared when I first got there, but I just kept reminding myself that this wasn’t about me, it was about the war and the thousands of Iraqis being bombed. The whole ordeal was so much harder for my husband, Ian, because he couldn’t find out what jail I was in for the first 3 days, and I couldn’t call out.

Thank you so much for reading Alexandra’s Corner, and thank you for writing.


Question #2:

Dear Alexandra,

What ever happend to the patent and technology from the old GM EV’s from the film? It seems to me all the engineers and other technology experts would not want to see their years of hard work eliminated. Did some of them switch over to other companies, or is that illegal?

Heidi Berkovitz

Dear Heidi,

My friend Earl Cox helped me with this answer, as I had to do a bit of homework before I could answer your excellent questions: GM retains the rights to most of the patents, trade secrets, and intellectual property for the EV1, including that which was developed under GM contracts by other companies such as AeroVironment and AC Propulsion. Many of the engineers and other technology experts involved with the development of the EV1 are active in other parts of the EV industry. There are always conflicts about what people can and can’t do, however, the law does not generally permit an old employer to influence where a person works in the future (it’s not like the mafia where you can never leave). AC Propulsion and AeroVironment still have some of the engineers, many have gone on to other companies such as Energy CS, Tesla, Enova, etc. There are a few die-hards still with GM and the other ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) manufacturers. Some have taken other jobs to pay the bills. Most of those who were passionate for the EV1 are likely to re-emerge as the EV industry blossoms again.

The battery technology developed for electric cars in the 1990’s really helped advance hybrid cars like the Toyota Prius, which run on gas and electric and which came to market later. In the late 1990’s, lead acid batteries gave way to NIMH (nickel metal hydride) batteries, which were put in the second generation EV1 and are in my current RAV4EV and allow a car to go over 100 miles per charge. Unfortunately, the patent to NIMH batteries was sold to GM, which sold them to Chevron-Cobasys. Cobasys will only allow vehicles in the United States to use NIMH batteries that work in hybrids, but which are not powerful enough for a full electric car. (Geee, do I smell a conspiracy to suppress electric cars here?) Fortunately, lithium ion is the next generation of batteries being put in EVs, and they store twice as much energy as their NIMH counterpart. However, NIMH are incredibly durable (lasting over 150,000 miles), and lithium ion hasn’t been around long enough for us to know how long they will last. Lithium ion batteries are also much more expensive (hence the cost of the Tesla at $100,000).

I believe that our biggest challenge to getting electric cars accepted as an alternative to your gas vehicle is getting the price down for the batteries (and thus the car). This should at first be funded by the government (which spends billions subsidizing the oil industry anyway) to help this new industry flourish. Batteries are improving by leaps and bounds – now let’s get them into cars that will be more affordable for Americans to purchase.


Question #3:


Thank you so much for being an inspiration to my partner Leah who passed away on January 9th due to complications from her eating disorder. In November 2005 you responded to a note she sent you and you again in February 2006. Leah always kept copies of those notes in her journal and looked at them for inspiration and encouragement! She was able to recover from her eating disorder and was even able to speak to several groups of high school girls about the disease. Unfortunately, the damage she did to her body could not be fixed and she had a massive heart attack at 25 years old. I hope that you continue to speak out about eating disorders and how harmful they really are. Thanks again for being such an inspiration to my Leah.

– Emily

Dear Emily,

I am so sad to hear this news. I went back to the archives to read Leah’s letters, and they were so full of hope! She sounded like a wonderful person, and her death must be so hard for you. I am so glad you wrote, though, because it is a reminder to all of us how deadly an eating disorder can be. And it is a reminder to me that I must continue to be open about the anorexia and bulimia that plagued me for so long , so that it can hopefully help others who are still struggling. As I told Leah when she first wrote, I had always been embarrassed about that E! interview that she saw of me talking about my eating disorder, but her letter made me look at it in a different light. I realized that if it can help one person, it was worth it.

Your letter has undoubtedly helped many young women who read it to have some perspective on this illusive quest for the perfect body. I appreciate you taking the time to write to tell me this incredibly sad news about Leah, and I send you love and support.


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