Mendocino County Today: July 9, 2013

by AVA News Service, July 8, 2013

WILL PARRISH was released from the County Jail on his own recognizance last Wednesday (July 3rd.) Parrish, also known as Red Tail Hawk, writes on environmental matters for the AVA. He'd been arrested for strapping himself to a piece of CalTrans road building equipment in protest of the Willits Bypass.

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“KUDOS,” a reader writes, “to Supervisors Dan Hamburg and John McCowen for getting ‘smoked out’ at the World's Largest Salmon Barbecue in Fort Bragg. Both of them manned the grills, donning bright yellow rubber aprons and rubber gloves, completely sunburnt, covered in grease, completing grueling, six-hour shifts to save the salmon. Hamburg recalled that in earlier years, all the county judges used to come down and take a shift. Apparently the 3,000-plus portions of King Salmon come from Alaska. My boyfriend quipped that the motto for next year's event should be, 'Protect and Serve'.”

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SOME 3,500 PEOPLE turned out at the Green Center at Sonoma State University on the 4th hoping to hear some music and watch some fireworks. The fireworks fizzled, the many kids there strictly for the fireworks were bored by the classical music, the grass was inaccessible to wheelchairs, and lots of people demanded (and got) at least part of their money back. The disabled had to be carried up several flights of stairs to get to the green.

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SHORTLY before noon Monday, a trench on the Holmes Ranch near Philo caved in, injuring a man. No details yet.

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THE MENDOCINO COUNTY Republican Central Committee will meet Saturday, July 20, 2013, 10am–Noon at the Henny Penny Restaurant, 697 S. Orchard Ave (corner of Gobbi), Ukiah 95482.  For further information contact: Stan Anderson, 707-321-2592. One possible topic: “Are we as crazy as the liberals say we are, or is it them who's nuts?”

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COMMENT OF THE DAY: “I communed with my fellow citizens this Fourth of July weekend for a few hours at a little beach in a Vermont state park. It was a family kind of place. The mommies and daddies were putting on a competitive tattoo display (along with competitive eating). So many skulls, Devil heads, snakes, screaming eagles, flags, and thunderbolts. I suppose they acquire these totem images to ward off some apprehended greater harm, the metaphysically inchoate forces marshalling at the margins of what little normal life remains in this nation of rackets, swindles, and tears. All was nonetheless tranquility, there by the little lakeside, with the weenies grilling and the pop-tops popping. A three-year-old came by where I was working on my tan on a towel in the grass, supine. He asked me if I was dead. Not yet, I told him. Behind him a skull smoking a doobie loomed in blue and red ink on his daddy’s thigh. My people. My country.”

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DON'T TELL the Mendo Health Department, but there's a liquor store in San Francisco at 2nd & Balboa called “DRINK LIQUOR” Liquor Store. Been there for years.

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DRUG WAR OUT OF CONTROL: THE JOHN DALTON CASE

by Alexander Cockburn

(First published in June 1999, and reprinted this week in the hope that our friend, John Dalton, still being held at the federal penitentiary at Lompoc, will soon be free. So far as we know, Dalton has been held longer on marijuana-related charges than any other Mendocino County resident. He's been in prison now for 17 years, and was already in custody during the hearing Cockburn describes here for The Nation magazine.)

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All those present in a federal courtroom in San Francisco in mid-May were edified by the sight of a federal prosecutor getting off to a faltering start by having to admit that the government's prime witness and lead investigator — Drug Enforcement Agency special agent Mark Nelson — had committed perjury.

The object of special agent Nelson's probe has been John Dalton, brought to the courtroom from the federal detention center in Dublin, Calif., to hear his lawyer, Tony Serra, argue before Judge Susan Illston that the DEA's case against Dalton be dismissed for "outrageous government conduct." Among such outrageous conduct must undoubtedly be included the fact that special agent Nelson's perjury stemmed from his efforts to conceal the precise date on which he commenced an amorous relationship with Dalton's wife, Victoria Horstman.

Here, in other words, is a saga that gives us the government's war on drugs at its ripest malevolence, for which I'm indebted to Mark Heimann, who compiled the incredible tale from court documents for a recent series in the Anderson Valley Advertiser, the weekly newspaper in Mendocino County, Northern California.

Let's return to 1985. Dalton is living with his first wife on an 80-acre parcel in Mendocino County, some four hours' drive up 101 from San Francisco. This is pot-growing country. About 4:00 in the afternoon, bullets start raining down on the cabin, and Dalton sneaks out to the ridge where the shots are coming from. At this point, he's bushwacked by five men in camouflage, who beat him senseless.

He comes to, face in the dirt, to find his assailants are from the Campaign Against Marijuana Planting, better known as CAMP. These are teams of federal, state and local cops. They ask him if he's a marijuana grower. Dalton says no and that he will sue. Sheriff's Deputy Charlie Bone, who's dislocated his finger in the encounter, tells Dalton that they know he's a pot grower and that his troubles are only beginning.

Within eight hours of the arrest, the charges against Dalton are dropped, and though an attorney tells him he could collect big time, Dalton reckons the safe course is to do nothing.

In 1992, Dalton, a brilliant mechanic favored by the hot-rod set, embarks on a relationship with Victoria (Tori) Horstman. They are married a year later in Las Vegas.

The Dalton-Horstman menage is not tranquil. Dalton calls the police from time to time to restore order, and though Horstman claims her husband is a brute, her own 19-year-old son has testified, most recently in Judge Illston's courtroom, that John was “a very mellow man” and a good dad, and that his mother was a mean drunk.

Horstman is a wanna-be cop, consorts with cops and by 1994 is passing bank deposit slips from her husband's machine shop to DEA special agent Mark Nelson, who forthwith signs her up as a DEA source, SR3-94-0054. Horstman has also become romantically involved with agent Nelson, initial overtures having been made in a DEA safe house, where, according to a sworn statement by Horstman, “Agent Nelson gave me a beer, and later, we kissed and fondled each other. I do want to make it clear agent Nelson considered me at all times his personal possession and got angry if I ever talked with other DEA agents.” Among Nelson's other possessions are three children and a pregnant wife.

Nelson successfully presses Horstman to spy on her husband. On at least two occasions, she allows Nelson to search the house while Dalton is at work. Whenever she demurs, the DEA agent threatens to charge her with money laundering on Dalton's behalf. The most vivid episode in this sequence comes in September 1994, during a big fed/state/local enforcement drive against marijuana gardens in the area of Mendocino County. Nelson and a colleague seek out Horstman with the request that she place a “special FBI tape recorder” behind the headboard of her marital bed. Dalton duly returns home and describes the raids to wife and tape recorder, with the latter instrument soon returned by Horstman to Nelson.

Despite the surveillance, the DEA never gets a shred of evidence linking Dalton to marijuana growing. Thus balked, they turn to the drug war's favored tool, a snitch. Two, in fact. Using the statements of these snitches — one with prior convictions for perjury and fraud — they seize all Dalton's property for forfeiture, on the grounds that such property is the fruit of illegal labor. After the raid, Nelson oversees Horstman's separation from Dalton; he and five feds load up a U-Haul with Horstman's stuff while Dalton is out. When Dalton finds out Horstman is in Blaine, Wash., and goes north to patch up their marriage, Horstman informs Nelson, who himself hurries north with eavesdropping equipment. Horstman rejects Dalton's overtures and ultimately divorces him at the urging of Nelson, who even drives her to the lawyer's office to sign the final papers.

On Sept. 27, 1996, the Feds arrest Dalton, on the basis of a secret federal grand jury indictment, charging him with marijuana cultivation and witness tampering. Among the witnesses against him is the operator of a speed lab facing a life term but rewarded for his testimony with a 10-year sentence. Denied bail, Dalton has been in prison for nearly two years, awaiting trial. He's suing the feds for $44.8 million for outrageous conduct. The feds' last desperate throw in the dismissal suit was rich with effrontery, seeking to paint Dalton as an abusive husband. At time of writing, Judge Illston is considering whether to dismiss the case.

What this has to do with marijuana cultivation is unclear. Even if Illston doesn't dismiss, it's hard to imagine a jury failing to agree with Serra that in its war on drugs the government is running amok.

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HERE IN DENVER I haven’t yet personally encountered any Political Correctness. But in this neighborhood, diversity we’ve got. Next door is a black man and his Jewish rabbi wife, and they are right across the street from the young gay Mexican fellow. More Spanish than English is spoken on this block. This is what used to be commonly called a “mixed” neighborhood, and that's what it is. If it were transported to Marin County, it would be “diverse” in PC terms but more realistically considered “ghetto.” No one on this very “diverse” street appears to be the slightest bit concerned with the notion of PC. People are too busy living for such nonsense.

If memory serves adequately, I seem to recall that PC is something occurring almost exclusively among middle class white people, most of whom have been exposed to one or another post-60's New Age sort of thing, from “experimenting” with marijuana before it became mainstream — espresso and wine are the drugs of choice now — to gurus from India, the likes of Wavy Gravy and more serious dispensers of wisdom like Dr. Wayne Dyer and Byron Katie, seminar hustlers like Werner Erhard, tarot cards and so forth. PC boils down these days to denial of all stereotyping (in theory although reality can sometimes intrude), earnest trash recycling, calling oneself “progressive” while hypnotically voting for mainstream democrats, and cultivation of gay friends (for some reason gay women seem generally a bit safer to have at the suburban dinner party than gay men). And so on.

Our Esteemed Editor has joked, off the record, that the ultimate political correctness would be expressed in a transgender cripple as president of the US. Off the record only, since the warm-and-fuzzy PC legions, what the AVA sometimes calls The Nice People, would be horrified at the statement although delighted at such a reality, even though we have now seen that the first non-white president is strictly political business-as-usual or worse. And there is no reason to imagine that a disabled person of indeterminate gender would be any different, since anyone aspiring to the presidency is thoroughly corrupted well before getting near the possibility.

National Lampoon did a goof on Joan Baez in the 70s, a sound-alike singing "Pull the triggers, niggers, we're with you all the way, just across the bay... Just because I can't be there, doesn't mean I don't care..." (Google 'Pull the Triggers' to find it on youtube.) This is PC distilled right down to its essence, despite deployment of the hot-button “N” word. — Jeff Costello

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ON JULY 4, 2013, at about 8:19pm, Deputies from the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office received a call for service regarding an intoxicated male vandalizing a residence located in 17000 block of Redwood Springs Drive in Fort Bragg, California. Upon arrival, Deputies spoke to the victim Christopher Havens, 59, of Fort Bragg. Christopher told Deputies that his son Madison Havens, 19, also of Fort Bragg, had returned home intoxicated and became irate when Christopher would not allow him access to a motorcycle. This resulted in Madison breaking out the glass in two exterior windows at the residence. Deputies spoke to another family member at the location who also witnessed the event and told Deputies that Madison had pushed Christopher out of his wheel chair during the incident, causing Christopher to fall to the ground. Based on the statements received from all parties and Christopher meeting the criteria of a dependant adult by California law, Madison was arrested on the listed charges. Madison was transported to the Mendocino County Jail where he was booked on the listed charges and to be held in lieu of $50,000 bail.

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ON JULY 5, 2013, at about 4:50pm, Deputies from the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office received a call for service regarding criminal threats and a brandishing of a knife in the 100 block of Mountain View Road in Manchester. (Manchester Indian Reservation). When Deputies arrived they contacted victims Elvis Scarioni, 56, and Colleen Rice, 49, both of Manchester. Both victims told Deputies that the suspect John Logan had entered their residence and forced entry into the bedroom they were occupying. Logan then demanded monies Scarioni owed him for labor work performed on Scarioni’s property. After Scarioni informed Logan that he was presently unable to pay him the monies owed, Logan demanded keys to a vehicle in Scarioni’s possession. Logan then brandished a knife and threatened to kill both Scarioni and Rice and/or cut their throats, and then demanded money or the keys to the vehicle. Rice provided Logan a set of keys to the above vehicle and Logan departed the location in that vehicle. Deputies responded to another location on the reservation and made contact with Logan outside of a residence. Logan was immediately arrested on an outstanding active arrest warrant for driving without a license [section 12500 of the California Vehicle Code]. Incident to that arrest, Deputies established probable cause to arrest Logan in regards to the reported incident on Mountain View Road. Logan was subsequently booked into the Mendocino County Jail on the listed charges where he was to be held in lieu of $50,000.00 bail.

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ELK FIRE’S ANNUAL SUMMER BBQ — The Elk Volunteer Fire Department invites you to cool down at the coast at its annual Summer BBQ to be held Saturday, July 27, from noon to 4 p.m. at the Greenwood Community Center on Highway 1 in downtown Elk. Department members and friends are preparing to serve up grilled tri-tip, smoked chicken and portabella mushroom entrees, along with beans, green salad, homemade dessert and coffee. Fresh bread from the Center’s wood-fired brick oven will accompany the meal, all for $15 for adults and $8 for kids 7-12 (6 and under free). And, as always, Elk’s famous Margaritas will be available, along with beer, wine and soft drinks. Emergency vehicles and equipment will be on display at the BBQ. Children can enjoy a dip in the portable pond. Local musicians will liven up the day. There will be a raffle featuring items donated by local inns, merchants and community members. Raffle tickets are a bargain at $1 each or 6 for $5 and are available now at the Elk Store, the Elk Garage, Queenie’s Roadhouse Café, and at the BBQ. You don’t need to be present to win. Serving the community for 57 years — and providing mutual aid to Anderson Valley and other districts — the EVFD currently has 19 volunteers, 6 of whom are Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) and 4 trained to respond to large fires statewide. The department maintains a fleet of 7 firefighting vehicles of mixed type and an ambulance housed at 4 stations spread out over a large, 55 square-mile service district. The annual BBQ is the department’s most important fundraiser. Thanks to the community’s generosity last summer, the leaky, rusty 41-year-old tanker/pumper on Greenwood Ridge was replaced earlier this year with a new 2,000 gallon unit. Proceeds from this year’s BBQ will be used to outfit the new tanker/pumper with hoses, fittings, a radio, and other necessary parts and equipment.

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COUNTY’S SCHOOL GARDENS IN CRISIS

by Elizabeth Archer

With summer just starting, students are hardly thinking about next year’s classes. But unless a handful of dedicated educators can pull a rabbit out of their hat, students might find one of their favorite programs missing in the fall.

Twelve years ago, the Network for a Healthy California (NHC) paved the way for Mendocino County’s Garden Enhanced Nutrition Education (GENE) program. Thanks to this funding, Mendocino now has a unique claim to fame: every single public school in the county has a vegetable garden.

For the past decade, garden coordinators have worked with local organizations such as The Gardens Project of North Coast Opportunities Community Action, as well as other organizations and volunteers, to get these gardens up and running. Teachers have incorporated the gardens into their lessons, and the food services staff at some of the schools use what’s grown in the meals they serve.

These 32 gardens at the 32 public schools in unified school districts — plus all the private school gardens — serve more than 8,000 kids every year throughout Mendocino county.

However, in a devastating blow to this successful program, all NHC funding has been cancelled. Starting in the 2013-2014 school year, schools must find the funds to keep GENE running, or shut their gardens down.

“It’s ironic,” says GENE Program Coordinator Terry D’Selkie. “This year our gardens are better than ever before, and all of a sudden, the funding is gone.”

D’Selkie is working with each school’s garden coordinator — all of whom will be laid off unless a new funding stream is found — as well as school administration and staff, parents, and community members to find a long-term solution to keep the gardens running. She estimates that each school garden needs eight to ten thousand dollars a year to operate; a remarkably small amount considering the program’s benefits.

“Students love it,” says D’Selkie. “For many of them, it’s their favorite part of the day.” Since the program started, attendance levels are up. The cause? Students don’t want to miss out on garden time. GENE also helps attention span in the classroom, since kids are able to move their bodies and expend energy in the garden before heading back inside.

The traditional classroom does not address the learning styles of all students, and garden lessons are an eye-opener for kids who need to see something in action to really process it. “Science and math become much more interactive when it’s done in a living classroom,” says D’Selkie. In a report commissioned by the Center for Ecoliteracy in 2003, California middle school students who participated in garden-based instruction experienced significant gains in GPA, specifically math and science.

School gardens also help establish a pride of place among students. “We’re part of an agricultural community,” says Susan Lightfoot, Farm2Fork Coordinator. “These gardens help weave kids into the fabric of our community.” Teachers are also proud to work at schools with gardens. The same Ecoliteracy report showed that teachers working in schools with garden programs have higher morale and greater job satisfaction.

Of course, the garden programs also educate kids about nutrition and help them make healthy and lasting choices — the primary goal of NHC and a proven outcome of garden and nutrition education. In a study done by the Journal of the American Dietetic Association showed students involved in garden-based education more than doubled their daily fruit and vegetable consumption. “I learned to try new fruits and veggies,” says Cody Shepard, a student at Eagle Peak Middle School. “After seeing food grow, I am more aware of what I eat.”

Fall is just around the corner, and without significant commitment from every school board and the community to keep the GENE program afloat, these established gardens will revert to weeds. “When I think about the gardens being closed, I feel really sad,” says Shepard. “I see a lot of people growing gardens now, but I never would have started without learning about it in school first.”

If you’re interested in volunteering with or donating to your local school garden, contact Terry D’Selkie at tdselkie@uusd.net.

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"OKLAHOMA!" musical performance raises funds for Ukiah Symphony. Enjoy an American classic under the stars

Ukiah, CA — On Saturday, August 3, the Ukiah Symphony will join forces with professional singers Melissa Dunham and Ian Parmenter to present Rodgers and Hammerstein's beloved "Oklahoma!" at the Nelson Family Vineyards. The show, part of the Symphony's "Broadway Under the Stars" fundraising series, is directed by Les Pfutzenreuter and offers musical entertainment as well as delicious food and wine. "Oklahoma!" is the first — and perhaps best — collaboration by the songwriting team of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein. Debuting on Broadway in 1943, the play is one of the most popular in the American canon. Rodgers and Hammerstein creatively integrate musical numbers with the plot to provide a wonderfully entertaining story about the high-spirited rivalry between local farmers and cowboys in the brand-new state of Oklahoma. Singers Melissa Dunham and Ian Parmenter play the lead roles of Laurey and Curly, respectively. Both Dunham and Parmenter attended UC Irvine's theater program. Dunham, who debuted with the Ukiah Symphony in 2000 as Amaryllis in "The Music Man," acts and sings in Los Angeles, where she is currently portraying Princess Jasmine in "Aladdin: A Musical Spectacular" at the Disneyland Resort. Parmenter's performing credits include work at some of the finest regional theatres across the country, as well as in independent film and as a lead singer for six-star cruise entertainment. He is based in New York. Filling out the bill are Dave Strock as Will Parker, Rosanne Wetzel as Ado Annie, and Carole Hester as Aunt Eller. Patrons can purchase dinner or bring food for a picnic. A wide and tempting array of food and beverages will be available for purchase, including wine from Nelson Family Vineyards, veggie pizzas from Mendough's Woodfired Pizza, bountiful salads with grilled chicken from North State Café, tri-tip and sausage sandwiches from Si's Grill, and house-made desserts and coffee from Uncorked. A lawn area will be provided for people to bring blankets and low-back chairs, and picnic meals if they so desire. No outside alcohol is allowed at the event. Concert-goers can further support the Ukiah Symphony by booking a private table seating eight people for $100. A gift basket will be awarded for the best decorated table. To reserve a table, call (707) 462- 0236. Gates open at 5:30 pm, with the concert starting at 7:30 pm. Tickets are $25 in advance and $30 at the door. They are $5 for those under 18 or for students with an ASB card. Tickets may be purchased at the Mendocino Book Company at 102 South School Street in Ukiah or at Mail Center, Etc. at 207A North Cloverdale Boulevard in Cloverdale. Tickets may also be purchased by calling (707) 462-0236, or online using PayPal at www.ukiahsymphony.org. Please leave pets at home. Parking space is limited and carpooling is encouraged. A golf cart will be available to shuttle people from the parking lot. Nelson Family Vineyards and Ranch is located next to the Saechao Strawberry Farm on Highway 101, between Ukiah and Hopland on the west side of the highway. This event is sponsored by Mendo Lake Credit Union and Nelson Family Vineyards.

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THE KUMBAYA CONNECTION FOR GROWN-UPS: Learning to Let Go: First, Turn Off the Phone

By Matt Haber

There was a phantom buzzing in my shorts. I had carried my iPhone in my left front pocket for so many years that my jeans have permanent rectangular fade marks over my thigh. By now the phone is almost an extension of my nervous system; even without the thing on my person, I could still feel it tingle like a missing limb. My phone was stapled inside a Trader Joe’s bag along with my watch, credit card and ID. Any buzzing I felt was surely imagined. Then again, it could have been a mosquito. This was Day 2 at Camp Grounded, an adults-only summer camp held on former Boy Scouts quarters in Navarro, Calif., about two and half hours north of San Francisco. A little more than 300 people had gathered there for three days of color wars, talent shows, flag-raisings and other soothingly regressive activities organized by Digital Detox, an Oakland-based group dedicated to teaching technology-addled (or technology-addicted) people to, in the words of its literature, “disconnect to reconnect.” The rules of Camp Grounded were simple: no phones, computers, tablets or watches; work talk, discussion of people’s ages and use of real names were prohibited.

There was a reason such strictures seemed appealing. A year ago, I was an editor at a news blog. My days started at the office at 7:30 a.m., where I routinely worked through lunch until 6:30 p.m. I was compelled to follow 1,200 Twitter users, skim 180 RSS feeds and edit dozens of posts a day on an ever-accelerating conveyor belt of content that would have made Lucy and Ethel choke. Evenings were a chance to catch up on “important” television shows between skimming Twitter.

The work-life crises of the meth dealer Walter White on “Breaking Bad” and the advertising executive Don Draper on “Mad Men” (or, when I was feeling particularly dark, Dexter Morgan, the serial killer on “Dexter”) were amplified, better art-directed versions of my own 24/7 grind. At night, the iPhone was docked beside my bed, making me feel that even as I slept, I was on the banks of the data stream just in case anything important — or anything at all — happened.

After a few months, my hands became numb and I asked my doctor for a chest X-ray because I was convinced I had pneumonia. I was beyond burned out: I was scorched, like a marshmallow on a stick held too close to the fire.

At Camp Grounded, however, we would no longer be bloggers, entrepreneurs, lawyers, consultants or any other title; we were just ourselves (in my case, answering to “Brooklyn”). By removing the things that supposedly “connect” us in this wireless, oversharing, humble-bragging age, the founders of Digital Detox hoped to build real connections that run deeper than following one another on Twitter or “liking” someone’s photo on Instagram. Without the distractions of the Web, social media, television and breaking news, campers, who, according to organizers, ranged in age from 19 to 67, were invited to share with one another and learn about ourselves.

All of which started immediately upon driving up to the camp. Cars were met at the gate and we were greeted by counselors whose grinning positivity reminded me of that scene in the 1981 movie “Ticket to Heaven” in which a reluctant recruit to a religious cult was met with a chant of “Bomb With Love!”

I had had a long, twisty ride up the mountain to get to the camp, and wasn’t prepared for so much full-body enthusiasm, especially not the hugs. Normally, I find myself pressed up against strangers only during my morning subway commute, and usually that’s no cause for smiles.

What was I getting myself into?

“My goal now is to connect people,” Levi Felix, Digital Detox’s 28-year-old co-founder, told me. “There’s always going to be more media, more to do outside of where you are. The only moment that matters is right now.”

Mr. Felix, whose camp name was Fidget Wigglesworth, is part of an emerging shift toward mindfulness among users of technology. Rather than merely accept social media’s intrusion on relationships, and the small, distancing lens onto experience that smartphones and tablets have become for many of us, some tech-savvy folks are rethinking their attachment to electronic devices.

Groups like Reboot have begun to advocate for digital sabbaths and a National Day of Unplugging. Jaron Lanier, a pioneer in the field of virtual reality, has lately begun to speak out against the dehumanizing downsides of technology. And Arianna Huffington, an undisputed doyenne of the Internet, has used her site and Twitter account to call for time offline, even plugging Camp Grounded, though she’s yet to relinquish her four BlackBerries. As for Mr. Felix, he used to work at Causecast.com, a corporate philanthropy platform, but after long hours and a bad diet landed him in the hospital, he re-evaluated his priorities. He sold his car and his “nice Penguin clothing,” he said, and traveled for two and half years. He spent time in Southeast Asia, letting his facial hair grow like a wizard’s.

“I had the opportunity to step away from ‘the modern world’ for a little bit,” Mr. Felix said. “I went on my hero’s journey and I escaped. A lot of people who do that never come back. They live vagabond lives. I came back, and my cause was to show people how to connect, how to shed these rules and unwritten codes we bought into.” He founded Digital Detox last year, leading small retreats in Northern California, Cambodia and other locations, emphasizing yoga, meditation, a healthy diet and one-to-one connections as a reprieve from digital life.

But Camp Grounded, Digital Detox’s biggest event thus far, was designed less to be a spiritual journey than a whimsical return to childhood. Campers, who spent $300 for the weekend, were sent maps, instructions and a suggested packing list designed with a self-consciously retro style that wouldn’t be out of place in a Wes Anderson film.

Men and women were separated and sorted into separate animal-themed villages, where they bunked in three-walled lean-tos built for the camp’s original Boy Scouts by the Petaluma Kiwanis Club. Aside from a water-resistant sleeping pad, no camping equipment was provided.

The Scouts’ rifle range had been reconceived as a typewriter range, and a yurt had been erected near a stream and used as an all-night tea lounge. Throughout the weekend, there was skinny-dipping at the swimming hole. A psychedelic bus parked in a clearing hosted a late-night concert. On the final night, there was an ’80s-themed prom, replete with souvenir couples’ photos and a new wave band that looked as if it had walked off the set of “Revenge of the Nerds.”

Meals were vegan and gluten-free variations on summer camp staples: The first night we ate chickpea “sloppy Joes” and kale salad; another night, gluten-free “mac ’n’ cheese” made from rice pasta and soy with collard greens. To hear some of the campers tell it, giving up meat was harder than giving up technology, and by the second day, talk of hamburgers, bacon and fried chicken was constant. For some, the craving for meat got so bad that a group of campers sneaked into the kitchen one night and devoured slabs of bacon and packets of hot dogs that had been stored in the freezer for the kitchen staff. Another night, two campers who had volunteered to tear kale for hours in the kitchen were rewarded with bacon, which they passed around like contraband candy at a weight-loss camp.

Unaccustomed to such a legume- and leafy-green-rich diet, many campers privately complained about feeling bloated or snickered about the dubious wisdom of feeding 300 people so many lentils and asking them to share a few latrine-style toilets. For the most part, though, complaints were few and interpersonal conflicts nonexistent. “When all that stress in life is removed, what’s there to fight about?” Mr. Felix said.

As for love, meanwhile, any fears (or fantasies) that this would be the millennial generation’s answer to Sandstone Retreat, the legendary Southern California swingers’ outpost chronicled in Gay Talese’s “Thy Neighbor’s Wife,” went unrealized. Immediately on entering, it seemed everyone reverted to a preadolescent state of innocent crushes, promiscuous hand-holding and “cuddle puddles,” a reprieve from the transactional approach to dating in the age of OkCupid and Match.com.

“It was affection you just don’t see in regular life,” Mr. Felix said. “I think that when you create a space of authenticity and openness, there’s true, true respect.”

If authenticity and openness included fretting about everyday career concerns, however, you were out of luck. Montgomery Kosma, a 45-year-old CEO of a new foundation addressing gun violence, was once featured in a Washington Post article about his addiction to his BlackBerry. A friend told him about Camp Grounded and he thought it sounded like fun — he also thought he could recruit some developers.

“I wasn’t aware it was entirely networking-free,” he said after camp. “I was thinking, ‘I’m building a company and need to hire people.’ ” He wasn’t able to do any of that, and said, “It was frustrating.

“This was the longest I’d been away from e-mail or cellphone literally since 1997,” said Mr. Kosma, whose camp nickname was Jefferson Smith. “It was strange, but not that strange. ... I spent a lot of time off thinking and writing.

“My name and my job really form my identity,” Mr. Kosma said. “It’s really hard to talk about your job in generic terms.”

After a day, though, he adjusted. He spent some time learning how to solar carve using a magnifying glass and a piece of wood, creating a souvenir that reads “The Time Is Now” on one side and “All the Time in the World” on the other. A week after camp, Mr. Kosma said he was still carrying the Camp Grounded journal he was given in which he asked himself over and over “Who am I?” before concluding that he is “a man with an open heart.”

“I did a lot of listening to my own self,” Mr. Kosma said. “That’s just a remarkable thing.” And while his foundation is just months away from opening, he said he planned to attend the Burning Man festival this summer.

For Tatyana Plaksina, a 26-year-old social worker from Los Angeles, camp was almost a necessity.

“I felt like I needed something like this,” said Ms. Plaksina, whose nom de camp was Tater Tot. “I felt pulled in a lot of directions. My phone was always going off. I wanted an excuse to put it away and not respond to anybody.”

“From the moment that we drove up there, as soon as we met the organizers, they completely made me feel we were at the right place,” she said. “I didn’t expect there to be so much love and freedom and acceptance. It felt like a place where you could be yourself and be accepted for that.”

And me?

I had spent two days getting to know my fellow campers and participating in a meditative breathing workshop (or “playshop” in Camp Grounded lingo), taught by a surfer-yoga instructor called Didgeridoo, wherein I learned how to hug someone by positioning my head to my partner’s right side so that our hearts could touch and our breath could sync. I lost my voice during some very enthusiastic singalongs where I realized that I knew all the words to “If I Had a Hammer,” but not the second verse to “Norwegian Wood.” I had my face painted, napped in a hammock and spontaneously danced — not an easy thing since, as friends and family can attest, I’ve never done anything spontaneously in my entire life. And one night, I found myself lying on my back, gazing up at the night sky. The only other times I’d seen the constellations so clearly were when I glanced up at the ceiling in Grand Central Terminal.

Somewhere outside of Camp Grounded, iPhones were buzzing with the breaking news of Rupert Murdoch’s divorce and Kim Kardashian’s baby. But I was looking for shooting stars, not reality ones. And for once, I was enjoying the silence.

(Courtesy, The New York Times)

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OSAMA BIN LADEN Was Stopped By The Police For Speeding Just A Year After 9/11, Reveals Stunning Secret Pakistani Report Into Raid That Killed Him

By David Martosko

The terror chief was almost caught shortly after the 9/11 attack, said the wife of one of his guards, when their car was stopped for speeding Bin Laden was in the habit of wearing a cowboy hat in his Abbottabad compound because he thought it would shield him from US drones. He spent his last night with his youngest wife, and the two initially thought the noise from approaching Chinook helicopters was just a rainstorm.

A Pakistani government commission decided that killing bin Laden was an act of “murder” — and that he was a “victim.” Bin Laden was so secretive about his compound that he and his followers waited until after an earthquake to add a third story to the house Dr. Shakeel Afridi, now imprisoned in Pakistan for helping the US, wasn't arrested for three weeks following the raid, allowing the CIA time to help him escape if US officials had wanted to help him.

9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden died on May 2, 2011 in a military raid, but the Pakistani government's appointed commission is convinced he is a “victim” who was murdered by the United States. A secret Pakistani report leaked online Monday provides a series of stunning revelations about the life and death of terror mastermind Osama bin Laden, the long-time Al-Qaeda leader responsible for the 9/11 attacks against the United States in 2001. The report, placed online by the Al Jazeera news network, recounts the testimony of more than 200 witnesses including bin Laden's family members.

On one occasion during 2002 or 2003, bin Laden was almost caught while headed to a market with his security guard Ibrahim al-Kuwaiti and the guard's wife Maryam. The car he was riding in — it's unclear who was driving — was pulled over for speeding, but bin Laden “quickly settled the matter,” according to Maryam's testimony, and the al-Qaeda leader was once again off and running. One of bin Laden's relatives said “The Shaikh,” as he was known, often “wore a cowboy hat to avoid detection from above” by overhead US drones, and that “a complete collapse of local governance” allowed him to hide inside the country for six years before US President Barack Obama gave the order to have him killed in a Navy SEAL raid.

May 2, 2011 marked the end of bin Laden's reign of terror as the leader of al-Qaeda. President Barack Obama announced that the United States had killed the most-wanted terrorist in an operation led by Navy SEALS.

Did he get the idea from Barack? Bin Laden was in the habit of wearing a cowboy hat in his Abbottabad, Pakistan compound because he believed it would shield his identiiy from U.S drones. That “kill mission,” Pakistan's official inquiry declared, was “a criminal act of murder which was condemned by a number of international lawyers and human rights organizations.” “Due process was deliberately denied the victims,” the commissioners wrote — referring to bin Laden as a victim — “and their killing was explicitly ordered by the President of the US.”

Bin Laden had not left the room where he was shot for the past FIVE YEARS, claims his wife. Osama bin Laden's secret Pakistani compound demolition completed as country tries to forget painful an embarrassing chapter in its history. Bin Laden WAS NOT buried at sea, but sent to the US for cremation, leaked emails reveal. Pentagon DELETES files about Osama bin Laden raid after transferring them to CIA where they can't be made public. Revealed: How Bin Laden fled on horseback as US bombs rained down on Tora Bora… and slipped through the net for a decade. Among the dozen of new details in the report is the revelation that bin Laden and his supporters waited to build an unauthorized third story on the compound until after a devastating earthquake hit Pakistan in 2005.

Thunderclaps or Chinook helicopters? Bin Laden and his youngest wife reportedly thought at first that the Navy SEAL raid's noises were due to a rainstorm. Of the raid itself, the commission wrote that bin Laden and his youngest wife Amal were together in the bedroom when the US helicopters first arrived. “After the evening meal and prayer,” the account reads, “Amal and the Shaikh retired for the night. Shortly past midnight, they were awakened by the noise of what at first sounded like a storm.” It wasn't a cloudburst. Minutes later, bin Laden lay dead on the floor.

Scene of the “murder”? Pakistan's commission decided that killing “the victim” bin Laden in his compound, was a criminal act since he was executed without due process in a court of law.

In a now-famous photo, White House national security officials and cabinet members watched the SEAL Team Six raid in real-time as they stalked, found and killed Osama bin Laden.

The report also explores the case of Dr. Shakeel Afridi, a Pakistani physician who used his position as a public health vaccination volunteer to attempt to be admitted into bin Laden's compound.

Pakistani doctor Shakeel Afridi helped the US track down Osama bin Laden. He was sentenced to 33 years in prison for “conspiring against the state.” Although he failed to get in, Afridi got a good enough look at the complex system of locks on the front door to help the Navy SEALs design a specialized package of explosives designed to blow the door off.

He also provided his CIA handlers with crucial information about the voices of the people inside the compound. Aftridi “met with the CIA operatives [assigned to him] on more than 25 occasions,” the report concludes, “and received approximately Rs. [Rupees] 10 million from them. 10 million Pakistani Rupees is equal to about $100,000.

The Pakistani government arrested Afridi and he remains in prison, sentenced to more than three decades behind bars. Despite the doctor's key role in the mission's success, the United States has done little to secure his release.

“[T]he fact is that he was arrested three weeks after the raid during which time the CIA could have ferreted him out of the country.”

Al Jazeera's release of the commission's report came on the same day the United States government was exposed for going to great lengths to hide its own collection of information related to the 2011 raid. The Associated Press gained access to information from the Department of Defense under the Freedom Of Information Act, but only after the Pentagon acknowledged shifting documents to the CIA and purging them from their original files, so it would no longer possess anything it would have to turn over to the news agency.

(Courtesy, Al Jazeera)

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