THE MANHUNT for Shane Miller continued Friday. As of late Friday afternoon there had been no reported sightings of the Shasta County man who shot and killed his wife and two young daughters Tuesday and fled to the Mattole Valley where his Dodge truck was found Wednesday. There are some 50 police, from a range of agencies, presently in the Mattole looking for Miller who, it is presumed, has disappeared in the wild vastness of the King Range and what is called the Lost Coast. Miller, 45, grew up in Humboldt County where he’d grown marijuana in the Petrolia area.
IN 2002, MILLER was arrested and charged in San Francisco with making and selling marijuana for distribution, being a felon in possession of a firearm, possessing a machine gun and money laundering. He pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a gun and was sentenced to three years and 10 months in state prison. He was released in May 2007, according to the federal Bureau of Prisons.
LOVE IN TINY TOWN
It was a beautiful, warm sunny day, not too long ago and I was totally lost in the hills south of Not So TinyTown looking for a friend's house. Finally I turned around. I was heading back down the hill slowly when, to my relief, there was a pickup heading up the road. I waved my hands and stopped my car. I saw a very attractive guy quickly come to a stop and say, "Yes ma'am." For couple of seconds, I was distracted. What were the chances of meeting a young attractive guy in the middle of the hills, far from anyone else? Let's just say it's been a while. I started explaining that I was lost and he helped direct me back down the hill as best he could. He asked me where I was coming from and I said TinyTown. He said he knew one person from TinyTown, some guy named Leonard with a bunch of sheep dogs. He also said he lived up the road a ways with his family. We made small talk for a few more minutes and then as the conversation ended we let our eyes linger for a few seconds and he asked me if he could give me his number and maybe we'd hang out sometime. I got his number and that was that. It was a great story even if it was just that; after all, I never got a guy's number while lost on a dirt road before. So I wound up calling him and we set up a date. It turned out that he was nine years younger than me. Red flags went up, but I wanted to give him a chance anyway. He met me for dinner. We had lots of introductory conversation — family, work, that kind of thing. I talked about living with siblings much older than me, and he said he had two twin brothers 20 years older than him who lived in Oregon with their families. He also talked about owning his own business. At this point, red flags should have started to go off, but they didn't. I remember him talking about living in the area for seven years. Before that, he said, he lived in Reno, Oregon, Alaska, and Hawaii. I remember saying, "Your parents moved around a lot, huh?" He answered, "Yeah, and my mom wants to take me back to visit Hawaii." I talked about my travels around the country after college, how I loved Oregon, hated Reno, and that I'd never been to Alaska or Hawaii yet. After dinner we went to a lookout point on a curvy mountain road and talked more. I remember him asking me what I hated most. I said, "Well, good question. Dishonesty and non-communication, I guess." He seemed to give a nod to that. At end of the night we both said we had a good night (and had a hot kiss) and I said that I'd give him a call soon. So the next week we set up a date and a few days later he canceled. He had a story about issues surrounding his job. Whatever. We set up another day for a date. He never confirmed and never called. Perhaps a week after that, I was walking through town and saw someone who looked like him walking out of the hotel. He was looking at his phone, then he put it in his pocket and crossed the road. It was him! Somehow he didn't notice me until he got to the other side of the road. We nearly walked right into each other. I really just wanted to tell him off, but also I knew he wasn't worth it. He looked up, saw me, and said, "Hi, how are you?" and just kept walking. Wow. I was lost again somewhere between repulsion and mystery as I saw him walk behind the pub and grub restaurant in TinyTown. For someone who knows one person in the hills outside of TinyTown, he seemed to be pretty familiar with it.
Next, I saw him at two local social gatherings with some chick. He got up, got her drinks, opened doors for her… She reminded me of the stereotypical rich girl: made up like a Barbie doll, and paired with a butler boy. He told me he was single, and he just met this girl? Maybe she lives here in TinyTown. I never saw her before though. She also wore a long white coat which made me think she was not familiar with the dust and mud of Mendocino County. The final place I saw him was at the social hub-health food store in TinyTown. As he was walking out, I whispered to a friend, "That's the guy who stood me up," and my friend went into hysterics. He had known the doofus since he was little, not only had the guy lied about knowing one person in TinyTown, he lied about the fact that he was a local, born here to a well-known family who had roots here. He lied about his name and he never owned his own business. He did have a girlfriend and he was actually 11 years younger than me, not nine years younger than me. He didn't have two twin brothers 20 years older than him who live in Oregon, nor did he ever live in Oregon, Reno, Hawaii or Alaska. Does he know a guy named Leonard with a bunch of sheep dogs? Probably not. (Leonard, if you're out there, I stand corrected.) My friend's take on the whole fiasco was that he this guy was just bored, nothing much going on in his life. I feel bad for Barbie. How could someone just go on a date with someone else, disrespect them so significantly with lies, live in the same TinyLittleTown and expect the other person not to find out the truth? Well, like many negative situations, there is a silver lining: this experience made a good story to write.
Just a note of advice to Clueless Joe Blo: The TinyTown you've grown up in is a great place to find the truth, not a great place to hide it. What's a good woman got to do to find a good man to go on a date with around here?
THE WILLITS NEWS recently posted a picture of a Caltrans truck (or a Caltrans bypass contractor’s truck) with the caption: “Testing, testing,” followed by “This drill rig was boring test holes Thursday (May 9) in the area north of Hearst-Willits Road. CalTrans is expected to begin pile-driving in six test areas along the bypass corridor starting as early as next Wednesday and completing tests within two weeks, according to CalTrans spokesman Phil Frisbie.)
TESTING? Why? According to Caltrans own bypass plans and bid package documents, the ground under the massive project has been tested to death with test boring after test boring by professional geologists. A typical test chart looks like this:
(They’re all pretty much the same as this one. Notice that the surface starts with “gravelly silt,” followed by “gravelly clay with sand,” then “sandy clay,” “Clayey sand with gravel,” “clayey gravel with sand,” “clay (firm to very stiff),” “Clayey sand with gravel,” “clayey gravel with sand,” “sandy clay with gravel,” “clay with sand,” “clay with sand and gravel,” etc.)
THIS IS THE “GROUND” that the bypass will be built on top of. The middle nearly two miles will be on elevated pylons only about five feet into this silt, clay, sand, and gravel. Over which 18 wheelers will bounce along at freeway speeds.
SO NOW they’re testing again? They don’t trust their own prior tests? Or they weren’t complete enough? Or the contractor is doing their own? Whichever “reason” they may have for doing this again is yet more proof that the ground under the bypass is going to settle, Caltrans makes that quite clear. The question is how much and where? And guess what happens when settling occurs after the bypass is built? (Hint: it’s expensive.)
THERE ARE GOOD JOBS OUT THERE, but you have to pass a drug test.
A READER WRITES: I took a trip to Oregon in the middle of last month with my 17 year old son to visit Oregon State. We also toured a couple of mills. The mills, a Boise Cascade plywood-veneer operation in Medford and a traditional saw mill in Monroe, were both worth the trip.
The most striking aspect of the mill tours was how much the work place has changed in the last 20 years. What we are seeing in the workplace, is not a drug and alcohol free environment, but a drug and alcohol intolerant environment. This is not like it was 30 years ago, when people worked at the GP mill in Fort Bragg while under the influence of alcohol, pot, or crank. Drug and alcohol use at work was against the rules then, but the rules were broken with few repercussions. It is the way it was.
The Boise mill requires a drug test for new hires which includes a hair sample. The general manager, an impressive young guy who grew up just outside of Manhattan, New York, explained Boise is hiring. The need workers. The starting pay is $13 an hour, plus medical, dental, and an automatic 9% put into a 401k. Requirements? Show up, be ready to work, and pass the drug test. Routinely, Boise will start with 75 people who are interested in being hired. After explaining to everyone about the drug test, making the appointment to take the drug test, and the results of the drug test; the 75 potential new hires are down to 25. These are potential hires that need nothing more than a high school diploma and a willingness to work. It was also explained that the chip bins were overflowing and there were piles of chips next to the bins, because the trucking company that hauls the chips is six drivers short. Why? Because the trucking company can’t find drivers who can pass a drug test.
The other mill we visited, in Monroe, was a much smaller operation that has successfully positioned itself in the specialty market of doug fir beams. They hire people with the intent of keeping people for the long term. The long time forester for the company explained that people don’t get fired or laid off from the company, unless they fail a random drug test.
The lesson in all this is there are opportunities out there for young Americans. But drug use in incompatible with employment. The military is where this started, after the Vietnam War. Drug and alcohol intolerance has spread in the American work place. There is good reason for this too. In a work environment where people can easily hurt themselves and others, a sharp mind is a requirement. The cost of workplace accidents is too high.
It has also occurred to me that the “divide” in America is being defined by those who have substance use issues and those who do not. I also expect drug and alcohol intolerance to increasingly spread in the American work environment. We might see vocational schools start to require drug testing as well. And eventually drug testing will spread to welfare recipients, the working public will demand it. How many people in Detroit, Michigan who are not working could pass a drug test to work in an automobile factory?
But where are our schools on this? A significant portion of my son's friends are substance users. Are they aware of the doors in their futures that are closed as a result of this? I do not think so. The schools talk about the health affects of abuse, but not the loss of opportunity from use.
My oldest son is in the Air Force, and I remember his recruiter asking him if he smoked pot. My son said, “no.” The recruiter reminded him, “remember if you are using drugs, eventually you will be caught,” and then it is an automatic discharge. To some extent or another, this is the way it is going to be in America.
And how is Boise in Medford doing as far as accidents go? They have not had a lost time accident in six years. This is in a work environment that is dynamic and dangerous. A sharp mind is a requirement.
THE COMING PANDEMICS (Not If, But When)
By Ralph Nader
The deadly influenza virus H7N9 was first detected in China this March. “When we look at influenza viruses, this is an unusually dangerous virus for humans,” said Keiji Fukuda, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) assistant director-general for health security.
The new H7N9 avian influenza has infected more than 120 Chinese and taken nearly 30 lives, so far as is known. This strain of the flu has never been detected in humans before. Although Chinese health officials have not located the virus’s origins, they have determined that it comes from an assortment of birds – including domesticated ducks and chickens and migratory wild birds.
What is unique about H7N9 is that it does not seem to make the birds sick, so it is hard to track, unlike the 2003 H5N1 outbreak that killed chickens quickly and led investigators to the sources of the virus.
Another unsolved puzzle is why dead pigs and dead ducks in the thousands suddenly were seen floating down some of China’s rivers in March. Historically, influenza viruses that have spread around the world have started with Chinese chickens, spread to pigs, and then, due in part to the close living proximity of humans with their farm animals, spread to humans in China and then spread to other parts of the world.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is on high alert, receiving samples of the virus and beginning the process of preparing a vaccine. The CDC says that “influenza viruses constantly change and it’s possible that this virus could become able to easily and sustainably spread between people, triggering a pandemic.”
So far H7N9 has only spread to one case in Taiwan – a man who returned from a trip to China.
The problem with the reported numbers of cases is that the Chinese government often delays reports and does not have sufficient experts all over the country to test and provide full and timely information to the world.
Nor does the US have adequate numbers of CDC specialists in China for early detection. The CDC informed us this month that they have “one US direct hire and three local employees dedicated to the influenza program in China.” The agency added that it has a total of 54 staff members including one seconded to WHO, adding that “apart from the influenza team, others on the staff have supported the H7N9 outbreak efforts in their area of expertise such as lab, epidemiology, communications and assisting with the embassy’s committee tracking the outbreak.”
Given the immense stakes to the health of the American people, this is a tiny staff allocation – smaller than a normal Obama assassination team in a foreign country. The Influenza Epidemic of 1918-1919, involving the H1N1 virus, took 1.9 million lives in the US and, like many recurrent avian flu epidemics since then that experts believed started in China, the total loss of American life exceeds the loss of lives in all of America’s wars.
Clearly we are now better prepared scientifically and logistically for such epidemics, but the facility of international travel is much greater now as well. Yet, the budgets for detection and prevention of epidemics are much smaller than the bloated cost of a few F-35 fighter planes that Lockheed-Martin is still mired in producing.
What has got some leading US health officials properly worried, such as Dr. Anthony Fauci, the great communicator and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, is that H7N9 is showing some adaptation to humans, but doesn’t kill the birds. Though it could mutate further, Dr. Daniel Jernigan, deputy director of CDC’s influenza division, says the virus is presently “somewhere in that middle ground between purely avian and purely human,” which Dr. Fauci calls a red flag.
As if the looming presence of the H7N9 virus from China is not troubling enough, a deadly coronavirus has infected at least 23 people in Saudi Arabia, resulting in 13 Saudi deaths and five more in neighboring countries – a high-fatality ratio. Earlier this year two cases were documented in the UK of people who were recent arrivals from Saudi Arabia. This week, a patient, exposed to this coronavirus, suffering from acute respiratory illness has been reported in France.
WHO officials are urging all countries to report faster and more fully what they know about the spread of this virus in order to comply with international health regulations.
When all is said and done, the world is not devoting anywhere near enough resources to combat these viral and bacterial “terrorists.” Governments are far more frightful of sporadic, anthropomorphic, human-based physical terror – whether stateless or state-sponsored – than the grim annual toll of epidemics and the informed warnings by infectious disease specialists of a potential pandemic. They all agree; it is not a matter of if, it is only a matter of when!
For many years, I have urged the White House to take greater action and make more substantial preparations regarding infectious diseases. President Bill Clinton declined to speak to the annual meeting of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene in Philadelphia in 1998 when alarms over malaria and tuberculosis were rising. At the time, a traveling associate with Hillary Clinton told me that being at-risk from such infections on the First Lady’s journeys to developing countries was always foremost on their minds. Such concern did not materially change her husband’s public health priorities while in office.
To get President Obama’s attention, I sent him a letter from E.coli 0104:H4 warning about the “invisible terrorism from bacterium and viruses.” He and his assistants never responded.
In many areas, our country needs to reset its priorities. Both the White House and the Congress need more maturity regarding pandemic risks before it is too late.
(Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer and author of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us! He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, published by AK Press. Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition.)
MENDOCINO STORIES & Music Series presents Hit and Run Theater in May
Mendocino Stories and Music Series welcomes back Hit and Run Theater & Friends for two nights of improvised fun, games and stories. They will play at the Hill House of Mendocino on Friday & Saturday, May 24 and 25. The players are Jill Jahelka, Ken Krauss, Doug Nunn, Kathy O’Grady, Christine Samas, Dan Sullivan, and Steve Weingarten. Joshua Brody, “just maybe the greatest improv comedy keyboard accompanist”, will join the gang for this weekend. The shows will start at 7:30PM.
Special feature for this weekend’s engagement is a Song Improvisation Workshop for beginners … and the terrified!” led by Joshua Brody, music director for San Francisco's BATS Improv. The workshop will be held Saturday afternoon at the Hill House from 1 – 4PM. Says Joshua, “Starting with the very basics — breathing, ear training, vocal production — students are led gradually and painlessly through all the elements that go into making a song.” Joshua has been teaching song improvisation for over 30 years. $30 for a 3-hour workshop.
For the comedy weekend shows, doors open at 6:00 PM for dinner menu and drinks. Premier reserved seating at $20, $15 at the door. For more information about the shows and the workshop call Pattie at 707-937-1732 or www.mendocinostories.com/events.html.