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Mendocino County Today: November 18, 2012

ROAD NOTES: North For the Winter; Redux. By Jeff Costello

Motel 6, Ukiah

Early morning, a donut shop in Ukiah. I half-stumble from my room at Motel 6, hoping a large coffee will set my internal latitude and longitude back to coordinated. It helps. In the donut shop the few other customers, all buying the fried sugar-and-grease bombs, are Indians. White man gave the indigenous people booze and now, Filipinos are giving them donuts. And they don't look well.

By Eureka, the only non-whites are Mexicans, and native Americans. The farther north you go, the whiter it gets. In Port Townsend WA “you can count the black people on two hands.” And they do. In Poulsbo and on Whidbey Island, big US Navy installations, crosses were burned in the yards of mixed-race couples in 1989. This was part of my introduction to the Pacific Northwest.

Orick CA, at the southern end of the Smoked Salmon trail through Klamath, past Trees of Mystery to Crescent City, is not the California of San Francisco and Marin County. But the post office gives and takes books. Someone in Orick reads. The Palm Cafe has the best peach pie ever. The waitress apologizes for being out of ice cream. “But I have whipped cream.” Okay. Outside, parked in front of the defunct movie theater, a bad-ass-looking dude in a hoodie sits in his big-tire pickup truck talking to a guy in the apartment window above the marquee. No PC or yuppie tentacle has reached up here. I think that stuff ends at Garberville.

Gold Beach OR has a small secret for travelers looking for something decent to eat. I learned this by asking a female gas station attendant where the best breakfast in town is. It’s off the highway, a right turn just before the bridge over the Rogue River. A half mile down this road is the Indian Creek Cafe, the best road breakfast place I’ve found along 101. They serve terrific fried grits with crumbled bacon and parsley, and know how to get poached eggs perfect. A real friendly local diner with excellent food. Recommended.

Best and worst of Oregon: I’d say the state has the best rivers anywhere if one cares for scenic beauty. I usually don’t, but driving Rt. 38 between I-5 and Reedsport, following the Umpqua River most of the way, made me change my tune. The state of Oregon, I’ve found, also has the worst, the most dismal and stupid urban traffic engineering I’ve experienced, with the possible exception of the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex in Texas.

When Will They Ever Learn — Rest stop just south of Eugene. As usual, a beggar sits by the restrooms with a cardboard sign. This guy’s said “disabled veteran.” Had the look too, definite soldier type. I gave him a box of crackers and five bucks. And I want to know, Why Isn’t the Military Taking Care of These Guys? These kids get killed and maimed to protect Mitt Romney’s investments and Rush Limbaugh’s gold-plated toilet. I want to know what happens when the spotlight goes dark and the politicians are done trotting out the crippled soldier to get the hawk uber-patriot vote. Because The Military is Not Taking Care of These Guys. No one had to literally spit on returning Viet Nam vets. They were shit upon all the way through the process by the people who called them “heroes.”

It’s a good thing I never wrote a great novel like The Grapes of Wrath. Or any novel at all. When Steinbeck started driving around with his dog and wrote about it in “Travels with Charley,” it was so pallid by comparison with his other work, I just couldn’t read it.

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MEMO OF THE DAY: Greetings World

For far too long, Anonymous has stood by with the rest of the world and watched in despair the barbaric, brutal and despicable treatment of the Palestinian people in the so called “Occupied Territories” by the Israel Defense Force. Like so many around the globe, we have felt helpless in the face of such implacable evil. And today’s insane attack and threatened invasion of Gaza was more of the same. But when the government of Israel publicly threatened to sever all Internet and other telecommunications into and out of Gaza they crossed a line in the sand. As the former dictator of Egypt Mubarack learned the hard way – we are ANONYMOUS and NO ONE shuts down the Internet on our watch. To the IDF and government of Israel we issue you this warning only once. Do NOT shut down the Internet into the “Occupied Territories”, and cease and desist from your terror upon the innocent people of Palestine or you will know the full and unbridled wrath of Anonymous. And like all the other evil governments that have faced our rage, you will NOT survive it unscathed. To the people of Gaza and the “Occupied Territories”, know that Anonymous stands with you in this fight. We will do everything in our power to hinder the evil forces of the IDF arrayed against you. We will use all our resources to make certain you stay connected to the Internet and remain able to transmit your experiences to the world. As a start, we have put together the Anonymous Gaza Care Package – http://bit.ly/XH87C5 – which contains instructions in Arabic and English that can aid you in the event the Israel government makes good on it’s threat to attempt to sever your Internet connection. It also contains useful information on evading IDF surveillance, and some basic first aid and other useful information. We will continue to expand and improve this document in the coming days, and we will transmit it to you by every means at our disposal. We encourage you to download this package, and to share it with your fellow Palestinians to the best of your ability. We will be with you. No matter how dark it may seem, no matter how alone and abandoned you may feel – know that tens of thousands of us in Anonymous are with you and working tirelessly around the clock to bring you every aid and assistance that we can.

We Are Anonymous

We Are Everywhere

We Are Legion

We Do Not Forgive

We Do Not Forget

To the oppressors of the innocent Palestinian people, it is too late to EXPECT US.

THE BOARD OF SUPERVISORS has called a special meeting for Tuesday, Nov. 20, for a closed session item concerning a lawsuit filed by the Masonite Corporation objecting to approval of the Kunstler Ranch gravel mine operation proposed by Granite Construction Company. Masonite, which owns adjacent property, is suing the County, the Board of Supes and Granite Construction complaining the EIR for the project was improperly approved. The gravel mine would be an open pit, or terrace mine operation, on 65 acres just downstream of the confluence of the Russian River and Ackerman Creek, which Masonite describes as “a highly sensitive resource that floods regularly.” Masonite says “the river and creek provide spawning and migratory habitat for salmonid species threatened with extinction.”

MASONITE, not previously known for its environmental ethic, claims that “Masonite's property, located immediately adjacent to and downstream of the proposed mine, will be exposed to the mine's substantial and adverse visual, noise, dust, traffic, water quality and flooding impacts throughout its expected twenty years of operation.” Masonite claims the project will damage water quality and result in the loss of 45 acres of prime ag land. Does anyone really believe that Masonite gives a bleep about visual impacts, noise, dust, or pollution, given the corporation's 50 year local history as the premier polluter and destroyer of quality of life in the Ukiah Valley?

BEFORE IT WAS PURCHASED and torn down by Developer's Diversified Realty, aka DDR, (which unsuccessfully sought to develop a mega mall at the site), Masonite was arguably the largest and ugliest visual blight on the landscape. And the greatest polluter, with the infamous “Masonite plume” blanketing the Ukiah valley with an airborne toxic stew 24 hours a day. Masonite is widely believed to have buried quantities of toxic and hazardous waste on the property. Back in the fifties and sixties, Masonite discharged toxic pollutants directly into the Russian River, resulting in sizable fish kills for miles downstream. And everything from tires to dioxin-contaminated transformer oil was burned in the infamous Masonite boiler. In the years before the plant was shuttered, toxic emissions from their molded door line were traced to at least one death due to the hazardous air quality impacts. And the adjoining Masonite lands, themselves zoned industrial, are home to the highly contaminated “Masonite ponds” which stored the water used in processing Masonite, a product made by cooking and pressing together wood chips mixed with toxic chemicals and glue.

MASONITE CLAIMS the county didn't properly comply with California Environmental Quality Act requirements by failing to adequately evaluate the impacts of the mining operation and to notify the public of those impacts. Masonite is asking that the County's approval of the project be set aside. Granite Construction Company, in responding to the lawsuit, says the land is zoned for industrial use and that extensive mitigations for the water quality impacts and other concerns have been approved. In fact, a host of federal and state agencies charged with protecting fish and wildlife, have all signed off on the project, based on extensive mitigations that they have required.

RUSSIAN RIVER KEEPER, another environmental shakedown organization somewhat on the order of the notorious River Watch (which made a fortune suing public agencies for minor technical violations) was a party to the lawsuit, but is rumored to have settled out of court in return for an undisclosed amount of attorney fees, leaving the two corporate behemoths, Masonite and Granite, to battle it out. And what does Masonite, (which obviously has no legit environmental concerns) really want? The smart money says that Masonite is using the lawsuit to try and force Granite to buy the adjoining Masonite parcel, including the site of its polluted ponds. For decades the local Chamber of Commerce maintained signs welcoming travelers to “Ukiah — Home of Masonite.” But for Masonite, if they can force Granite to buy the remnants of their local toxic holdings, it will be Ukiah in the rearview mirror with no looking back.

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WILLITS IS FACING an unanticipated $5 million balloon payment owed to the bond hustlers who organized the money for Willits school construction and remodeling via their Measure B. Willits property owners are now on the hook for much more in property taxes over a much longer period of time than voters likely would have approved if they could have foreseen the criminal-quality negligence of the Willits School Board in entering financial deals they didn't understand.

INTERIM BOARD CHAIR Cynthia Carni read a statement at this week's meeting of the Willits school board that said, in essence, “We've been duped.”

NOT THAT WILLITS is alone in school bond dupedom. A recent article from Bloomberg News explains that lots of school districts have been hustled:

California Treasurer Backs Law to Ban Costly Long-Term Bonds. By James Nash.

Sep 5, 2012 — California Treasurer Bill Lockyer will push for limits on bonds that have saddled school districts with debt payments as much as 10 times the principal and seek to ban those maturing more than 25 years in the future, a spokesman said.

Lockyer, a 71-year-old Democrat, will work with lawmakers next year on a bill to ban such capital-appreciation bonds, Tom Dresslar said yesterday in a telephone interview.

Fifty-five California school districts issued such bonds last year, data compiled by Bloomberg show. The Poway Unified School District in San Diego County deferred all payments on $105 million in bonds until 2033. By the time they mature in 2051, the district will have paid $1 billion in interest.

“The capital-appreciation bonds need more transparency and better protections for taxpayers,” Dresslar said. “The goal is not to take away this tool for school districts. The goal is to make sure they wear protective gear when they use it.”

School districts across California have used the late-maturing bonds, many with balloon payments, to build and modernize facilities as declining property values reduce their capital. The zero-coupon notes yield more than coupon bonds to compensate investors for the longer holding period before they receive any income.

Since 2000, California school districts have issued $19.73 billion of capital-appreciation bonds, of which $5.4 billion had maturities beyond 25 years, according to data from the California Debt and Investment Advisory Commission provided by Dresslar.

Dresslar said the office could not quantify the total debt service on the long-term securities.

ANNUAL HOLIDAY OPEN HOUSE. by Roberta Werdinger

Whoever promoted the belief that there was nothing to do in country towns didn't know about Ukiah. This already active and friendly community will be even busier and friendlier from 10 am to 3 pm on Saturday, December 1, when the Grace Hudson Museum & Sun House hosts its annual Holiday Open House and Gift Market against the backdrop of the City of Ukiah's Small Town Christmas festivities. Admission to the Museum's exhibits and all the day's activities will be free to all humans, elves, and Santa Claus. The holiday reveler might want to start by looking in at the Sun House, Grace and John Hudson's 1911 redwood Craftsman bungalow, which will be freshly decorated for the holidays, where Santa will hold court. Once inside the Museum itself, a variety of activities beckon. The Ukiah Madrigal Singers will sing carols, and puppeteer Gigi Brown will recount folk tales using the wooded landscapes of the Museum's current exhibit, “The Comprehensive Keith: A Centennial Tribute,” as backdrops. A number of talented local artists and artisans will ply their wares, including Lolli Jacobsen of Pacific Textiles, Wax & Bing Pottery from Anderson Valley, Whispering Winds Nursery, and Gail Meyer, who imports Huichol Indian art. Christmas bay leaf and fir wreaths will also be on sale, and refreshments will be served. Several noted local authors will be on hand to sign their books, available at a 10 percent discount from the Museum Store. Gretchen Mauer, Shirin Yim Bridges, and Natasha Yim, who have contributed works of young adult fiction in Goosebottom Books' series “The Thinking Girl's Treasury of Dastardly Dames,” will all be present. Co-authors Lucienne Lanson and Patricia Tetzlaff will sign their work, “Grace Hudson: Artist of the Pomo Indians” and Jeane Slone, from Sonoma County, will be signing her young adult fiction centered on women who participated in World War II. (All other merchandise in the Museum Store will also be on sale.) Proceeds for this gala event will benefit the Grace Hudson Museum and Sun House. Ukiah will continue its observance of the season with a tree lighting ceremony in Alex Thomas Plaza that evening, followed by a Truckers Light Parade. The Grace Hudson Museum and Sun House is at 431 S. Main St. in Ukiah and is part of the city of Ukiah’s Community Services Department. For more information please go to www.gracehudsonmuseum.org or call 467-2836.

NO SAFE HAVEN: Civilians Under Attack in Gaza: a Photo Essay. By CounterPunch.org-Newswire.

The Israeli attacks across the Gaza Strip have entered their third day. We write this report amid the sounds of incessant bombings, which have continued all day yesterday and throughout the night.

The military escalation carried out by the Israeli Army continues all over the Gaza Strip. From Gaza City, we hear incessant noise of drones and F-16 fighter jets crashing through the sky above our heads. Bombs repeatedly fall in our surroundings, in densely populated civilians areas. At this point, Israeli air forces have conducted nearly 200 airstrikes, bringing the death toll to 19. Among the casualties are ten civilians, including six children and one woman. More than 180 people have been injured by the attacks, the vast majority civilians. The areas targeted included Beit Hanoun, Jabalia refugee camp, Sheikh Radwan and al-Nasser neighbourhoods in Gaza City, Maghazi, Deir El Balah, Khan Younis, and the tunnel area in Rafah.

Yesterday we visited Al Shifa hospital, where most of the injured are brought to. There we spoke with doctors, patients, their relatives, and witnesses about what they are going through in the current escalation in the Gaza Strip. We wish to share some of the stories of the people we met.

Salem Waqef, a 40 year old man, was severely injured when his home was destroyed in an attack during the early morning of 15 November. His doctors say Salem suffered a brain injury when he was deprived of oxygen. He was brought into the International Care Unit of Al Shifa hospital at 5am where he was placed on a ventilator. He remains in a coma and the doctors said he was in a serious condition.

At approximately 1.10pm, as we were leaving the ICU, a 10 month old girl, Haneen Tafesh, was brought into the ward. She was unconscious and her tiny body was grey. She had suffered a skull fracture and brain haemorrhage, which resulted from an attack that took place at around 11am yesterday in Gaza’s Sabra neighbourhood. She was in a coma and on mechanical ventilation. Later in the afternoon, we checked how Haneen was doing and doctors said her condition had deteriorated. After returning home in the evening, we learned that she had died.

Ahmed Durghmush is in his early twenties and was brought to Al Shifa ICU at around 9pm Wednesday night, 14 November, after he was injured by an airstrike carried out on the Tel al Hawa neighbourhood in Gaza City. He had suffered a severe brain trauma, caused by shrapnel from an explosion. Dr Fauzi Nablusia, a doctor in the ICU, explained that, when Ahmed arrived, some of his brain matter was protruding from his head wound. He suffered a brain haemorrhage and was operated on. When we asked doctors about Ahmed’s condition later today, they said it had deteriorated. A relative was standing over Ahmed’s bed, expressing his feelings of powerlessness and fear for Ahmed’s fate.

The emergency room was dealing with spikes in victim arrivals throughout the day. One of those brought in was 5 year old Basma Mahmoud el Tourouq from Rimal neighbourhood, Gaza City. She was injured in an airstrike near her home around 2.30pm today. The shockwave of the explosion threw her across her bedroom, causing her lower arm to be fractured as she fell on the floor.

We later listened to the stories of some of the injured children, women and men and their relatives who had been moved up to the different wards of Al Shifa hospital.

Mohammed Abu Amsha, a two and half year old boy, was injured while he was sitting in front of his grandfather’s house in Beit Hanoun. An F16 fired a missile nearby, and scattering rubble struck him in the head. As we were about to leave, Mohammed’s father mentioned that Mohammed’s uncle had also been injured.

Zuhdiye Samour, a mother and grandmother from Beach refugee camp in western Gaza City, was still visibly shaken by what had happened when she shared her story: “We were sitting together in our house. It was around 8.30 in the evening and we were watching TV, playing films so that the children would be less afraid. Then, we heard the sound of 12 shells being fired from gunboats in the sea.” Zuhdiye and three other civilians were injured as shells dropped in her neighbourhood, a residential area in the north of Gaza City.

Khalid Hamad, the Director of Public Information for the Ministry of Justice, was one of the other civilians injured in the indiscriminate attack of the residential area. He was at home with his family in Nabarat, Northern Gaza City, when they heard the sound of shelling, targeting a neighbour’s home. A number of people in the neighbourhood rushed outside to help and were targeted by a series of six additional shells. Hamad’s teenage nephew was lightly injured,and another man received shrapnel wounds. “They targeted civilians deliberately”, he said. “The Israeli forces don’t make mistakes.”

A 13 year old girl, Duaa Hejazi, was coming back to her home in Gaza’s Sabra neighbourhood, after a walk with her mother and siblings, when an Israeli missile fired on the road in front of their home around 8 o’clock at night. “I was bleeding a lot. My brother was injured too, in his hand. The neighbours brought me to the hospital” Duaa sustained shrapnel injuries throughout her upper body, with some pieces still imbedded in her chest. She would like to pass on a message to other children, living outside of Gaza:

“I say, we are children. There is nothing that is our fault to have to face this. They are occupying us and I will say, as Abu Omar said, “If you’re a mountain, the wind won’t shake you”. We’re not afraid, we’ll stay strong.”

During our time al Shifa we also met with Dr Mithad Abbas, the Director General of the hospital. When we asked him about the ways in which Shifa hospital is coping with the incoming patients, he said, “When those cases arrive at our hospital, it is not under normal circumstances. They come on top of the siege, the blockade, which has resulted in a lack of vital medicines and required medical supplies.” The hospital lacks essential basic medicines and supplies, such as antibiotics, IV fluid, anesthesia, gloves, catheters, external fixators, Heparin, sutures, detergents and spare parts for medical equipment.

The hospital also relies on a store of fuel, which provides power during the daily electricity cuts. If power cuts reach the level of more than 12 hours per day, Dr Abbas estimates that the hospital only has enough fuel in storage to run for approximately one week.

Hospital staff are encountering chaotic and emotional scenes, as hallways and rooms become overcrowded with people trying to ascertain whether their relatives or friends have been hurt. “People enter the emergency room in panic, looking for their relatives. It is very difficult to deal with,” says Abbas.

No one knows where the next missile will hit, no one knows where they can be safe. Parents are unable to keep their children safe, let alone provide them a sense of safety.

These are the names of the civilians killed in the attacks:

1- Walid Abadlah, 2 1/2 years

2- Marwan Abu Al-Qumsan, 52 years

3- Ramai Hamamd

4- Khalid Abu Al-Nasser

5- Habes Mesbeh, 30 years

6- Wael Al-Ghalban

7- Hisham Al-Ghalban

8- Ahmed Al-Jaabari, 52 years

9- Mohammed Al-Hams

10- Ranan Arafat, 3 years

11- Essam Abu El-Mazzah, 20 years

12- Hani Al-Kaseeh, 18 years

13- Ahmed Al-Masharawi, 11 months

14- Hiba Al-Masharawi, 19 years, pregnant woman

15- Mahmud Sawaween, 65 years old

16- Hanin Tafish, 10 months

17- Tareq Jamal Naser, 16 years

18- Oday Jamal Nasser, 14 years

19- Fares al-Bassiouni

This dispatch was prepared by an international group of journalists, human rights workers and teachers in Gaza. Here is the statement they sent to CounterPunch:

We are a group of internationals living in the Gaza Strip, working in the fields of journalism, human rights, education, and agriculture. We seek to defend and advocate for the rights of Palestinians in the context of the Israeli occupation and military operations. Besides being eyewitnesses ourselves, we gather our information from our personal networks across the Gaza Strip, from local media reports, medical staff, and local and international NGOs in Gaza.

We verify the information we send out and hope our reports will contribute to accurate media coverage of the situation in Gaza.

Adie Mormech (British) +972 (0) 592280943

Adriana (Italian, Spanish) +972 (0) 597241318

Gisela Schmidt Martin (Irish) +972 (0) 592778020 blipfoto.com/GiselaClaire

Joe Catron (United States) +972 (0) 595594326 twitter.com/jncatron

Lydia de Leeuw (Dutch) +972 (0) 597478455 asecondglance.wordpress.com

Meri (Italian) +972(0)598563299

Photo credits:

Salem Waqef (Photo: Lydia De Leeuw)

Haneen Tafesh (Photo: Gisela Schmidt-Martin)

Ahmed Durghmush (Photo: Lydia De Leeuw)

Basma Mahmoud el Tourouq (Photo: Lydia De Leeuw)

Mohammed Abu Amsha (Photo: Gisela Schmidt-Martin)

Zuhdiye Samour (Photo: Lydia De Leeuw)

Duaa Hejazi (Photo: Lydia De Leeuw)

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A COUNTY READER WRITES: “A lot of folks in the north county never got their Voter Guide booklets from the state for the recent election. (The only person who got one in my hood is registered Republican.) I called the County and they said it's a State publication, they know nothing about it, nor did they know to whom I should place my next call. So, I rang up the State Directory who's operator connected me to the Elections Dept. where I described the problem to a young man who had no idea what to do with the info. I encouraged him to take down my address and pass the info on. When I hand delivered my mail-in ballot to Laytonville, I told the poll workers, who also had no helpful comment, but, a woman who was there to vote chipped in that she hadn't received a Voter Guide either, but, her husband had so they shared. Somebody suggested I contact Wes Chesbro's office, so, I guess that's my next move. We all got our Sample Ballots and Ballots from the County just fine. You heard anything about a screw up in Sacramento?”

UM… A screw up?

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