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FROST ADVISORY remains in effect until 10am this morning...
CLEAR SKIES will allow for slight warming today. Cool, dry conditions will close out the week with warmer and drier conditions this weekend under the influence of gusty offshore flow. (NWS)
STEPHEN DUNLAP (Fort Bragg): A crisp 40F under clear skies this Thursday morning on the coast. I have .10" from yesterday's rain. Clear & cool is our forecast thru the weekend. More rain is forecast for later next week.
COUNTY ASSESSOR-RECORDER-CLERK Katrina Bartolomie responds to on-line questions about the Williamson Act tax breaks and changes.
We are not raising taxes, we discovered that we have not been assessing Williamson Act contracted land properly for many years. One of our first calls was to the State for guidance, by law we have to correct the error going back four years. We have approximately 4200 parcels under Williamson Act contract. Many parcels have a minimal increase, while some have a significant increase. Tax bills will be mailed out within the next week. Once you receive your tax bill, we encourage you to call our office; we are happy to review your property with you and make corrections if necessary. We will have a call line set up – 707 234-6849. If you are not using your land for Ag purposes, please let us know so those adjustments can be made.
The Williamson Act applications are not in question, although we have found properties that are not in compliance and those properties will go into non-renewal. We have been building the Williamson Act parcels in the property system and discovered Williamson Act properties have not been assessed correctly (in the old property system). By law they have to be assessed each year. The changes are being made and assessing the properties correctly so the County can be in compliance with the State’s regulations. We are doing our normal work, this does not have anything to do with a fiscal crisis. (We know, bad timing, but because the error was discovered we are required to correct the error). If you own contracted land and have questions, please call us.
The Assessor’s office has no idea who pays their bills, that would be the Tax Collector. If you are in compliance with your contract you will still benefit from the reduced property taxes the Williamson Act officers. Again, when you get your tax bill, if you have any questions, please call our office, we are happy to review your property with you.
SAVE THE COAST CHATLINE
Dear MCN and good people of the Mendocino schools:
The Mendocino School Board should continue to take leadership in local communication by preserving our List Serve resource. Please don’t discontinue it or transfer it to some dreadful company. This is one of the only social media sources that is local. Unlike Facebook, Next Door, Xchitter and all the rest. it does not prey on our privacy in exchange for giving us a communication format. Very little is in local control today. Billionaires and chans have taken over every place I grew up (long story about why I grew up in so many places). But we still have a chance here to be the Mendocino we all imagine, a place where local people can talk to each other without creeps listening in. Does the listserve have its own local creeps? Yes it does. Does that mean we cannot have a format that promotes free speech and local autonomy. No it does not. The solution is simple. Block them. I do and it works. I never see those childish spats between the tiny handful of unreformed 3rd grade bullies who are ruining things for all the rest of us. These trolls are aptly named. Trolls were criminals who hid under bridges and snuck up on travelers. Did civilized people stop building highways because of the trolls. No. And you don’t need to kill off the Listserve because of a group of jerks who would fit in a minivan. MCN Announce is truly a valuable resource in a darkening age. Local autonomy made our country great in the days when others fell into the trap of globalist control and our small town strength will someday come back but not if we can’t communicate. The district was a pioneer with MCN, opening up the world wide web when it was new. My late parents became computer buffs thanks to MCN. Rennie (sp?) and Frank and others patiently walked dad, an engineer who learned on the slide rule and written numerical tables, how to use the new to the world dial up, which was then a bit tricky, but thrilling for all of us. So you guys are stuck being leaders and pioneers in communication. Embrace it! Send us some lawyer approved stuff as a condition of joining the listserve but don’t become censors and don’t give up.
Thanks for all you have done for our community! Frank Hartzell
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Proposal made to MCN
Every MCN announcement made, and every MCN announcement received is followed by MCN's guidelines for subscribing, unsubscribing, amending, etc.
I propose MCN's Dispute Resolution rule be posted beneath those mentioned above, too.
Dispute Resolution/Disclaimer The staff of the Mendocino Community Network and the Mendocino Unified School District are not responsible for adjudicating disagreements or addressing concerns about posts on the lists, possible future postings to the list, or the behavior of list members--either on or off the list. List members must resolve conflicts directly with other list members or where necessary engage law enforcement or legal counsel to resolve issues resulting from list posts.
CONSERVATION DIRECTOR JOB OPPORTUNITY
We are hiring! Part-time position to start - please pass this to anyone you think might be interested. Thank you all for the tremendous community support for our work.
Anderson Valley Land Trust (AVLT) seeks a dynamic and experienced Conservation Director to move the organization to a new and more proactive conservation phase. This individual will be responsible for the core work of conservation and community engagement with a focus on conservation easement management, development and acquisition; will be the lead in grant writing to seek conservation easement funding; and will support the organization’s fundraising and donor development efforts. The Conservation Director will be the ambassador of the organization and must enjoy being part of the community and working directly with local and regional partner organizations. Initially this position will be half-time with potential to expand to full-time.
You can find more specific information about the job opportunity and our organization at www.andersonvalleylandtrust.org. If interested, please send a cover letter and your resume to firstname.lastname@example.org. Application deadline is November 17.
AL GOFF: Looking to stock up on wood for the winter? Remember: A cord is the amount of wood that, when “racked and well stowed” (arranged so pieces are aligned, parallel, touching, and compact), occupies a volume of 128 cubic feet (3.62 square meters)… width times height times length. A pickup truck CANNOT hold a cord of firewood. An eight-foot' truck bed can only hold one-half of a cord, while a six-foot bed can barely hold one-third of a cord. Most consumers get grossly ripped off.
THE INLAND DEMOCRATIC CLUB held their First District Supervisors Candidate forum, October 12, 2023. Recently a video of the forum was posted on line. But the audio is not very good. Nevertheless, it was an opportunity to see the four main candidates for Glenn McGourty’s open seat answer some local questions from the inland Dems.
Trevor Mockel was a little better than we expected. He avoided his “amazing” facebook rhetoric and actually seemed to have a passing awareness of the issues he was asked about, albeit with no idea what to do about them. Carrie Shattuck was obviously knowledgeable on the issues, but not as blunt as she has been in her frequent Supervisors appearances. “Lobbyist” Madeline Cline is more polished than the others and seems to be on top of state issues as they relate to Mendocino County. Adam Gaska is obviously very familiar with the Redwood Valley area and its residents and has been familiarizing himself with County affairs.
Most noteworthy to us, however, were Gaska’s comments about the County’s tax collection problems.
Gaska said that a became aware of how far the County was behind on tax collection while researching some inland property a couple of years ago. He said that the county was behind on tax collection by two years in many cases and that “when a property sells it isn’t always being re-assessed. So the County was not getting the tax revenue that it should. And I found out that if the County doesn’t collect from a person that money falls off. They can only go back four years.” Gaska said he emailed the assessor’s office and told them that they seemed to be missing some assessments and not getting the revenues. “They just said they were understaffed. I couldn’t believe that.” Then later, “It wasn’t until recently that I found that the problem had not been solved. That was one of the reasons I decided to run for Supervisor. Somebody needs to intervene and do whatever it takes. If county staff isn’t there, they have to give them the resources especially when it comes to those important tax assessments because that is where most of the money comes from that pays for our Sheriff and our roads.”
THAT is just the tip of the iceberg. Not only are they behind on tax assessments for properties that have been sold, but they’re behind on re-assessments for property improvements. In addition, there are property owners who have simply not paid their taxes and are delinquent. The delays in new purchases and re-assessments have become so bad that inland realtors these days routinely advise property buyers to set aside money for a delayed tax bill that may come as quite a shock, since it will be for the current assessed value and may go back for several years.
THIS IS MORE EVIDENCE that the Supervisors and Senior Staff in Ukiah have dropped the ball. Rather than focusing on what is clearly an understaffed but fundamental county function, they’re playing petty personal politics with the positions and not demanding that their staff give them meaningful reports on what’s being done (or not done) to collect taxes that are due. Nor is there a current list of tax default properties that could be sold for taxes due. And the clock is ticking. Significant revenues that could be used to shore up the County’s ballooning budget gap have been lost and more are about to be lost unless quick action is taken.
SUSPENDING CHAMISE CUBBISON and replacing her with an inexperienced “acting” Auditor-Controller / Treasure Tax collector will only make the situation worse. And their apparent, but years off, goal of converting the position and/or office into an unelected Director of Finance would not do anything to improve the situation.
AS FAR AS WE CAN TELL, only candidates Gaska and Shattuck have shown any kind of competent grasp on the seriousness of this situation and even if one of them were elected and seated in January of 2025, it would be months or more before they could even get the Good Ship Mendo moving away from the rocks it’s currently headed for, if they could steer it away at all.
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JOURNALO PHRASES we can do without: “Here’s what you need to know…” (Don’t tell me what I need to know! How do they know what I need to know? The arrogance!) “Mark Your Calendars…” (Who does that? Does anyone really rush to the fridge or pull out their old-fashioned day-timer and scribble an event down? Do they somehow stop whatever they’re doing and plop the info down into an on-line calendar?) “The latest on…” (As opposed to the usual rehash?)
THE HOLIER THAN THOU attitude about Measure B on our website lately from a few posters who preen about for their prescience of the futility of spending money on mental health and substance abuse services is annoying. Those of us who promoted and voted for the measure are not the problem. We voted for it in good faith. We thought at least a little of the money would go to getting some of the usual suspects off the streets. We were wrong, yes. But the problem is not us. The problem is the Supervisors at the time who appointed the equivalent of the KZYX Board of Director to the Oversight Committee and those now who have turned the Measures funds over to the usual suspects and not a nickel for substance abuse, much less the street people the Measure was sold on. Further, the lack of local media coverage about how the money is being wasted and misused hasn’t helped. The fact is, the Measure passed but is not being honored. The all-knowing critics would do better to focus on the County’s failure to follow it, not neener-neenering the well-meaning voting public.
THIS OLD HEADLINE from the Press Democrat has been current for thirty years: “Returning a river,” subtitled “Counties that depend on the Russian River fear a cut in diversions from the Eel — but in Humboldt County, it’s a long-overdue move to restore a natural resource.”
SO WHAT IS The Prob? For the sake of now nearly extinct runs of the salmon and steelhead which once provided livings for many Humboldt County residents, the Eel River needs to be returned to its natural flow without being diverted at Potter Valley to become the Russian River and, then, 52 billion gallons of the water stored behind the Coyote Dam in Lake Mendocino a few miles north of downtown Ukiah. The water piled up behind Coyote Dam is mostly owned by Sonoma County.
TO BUILD Coyote Dam back in the 1950s, money was raised by the downstream beneficiaries, Sonoma County and northern Marin County. Mendoland, with its usual far-sighted sagacity, essentially donated Lake Mendocino’s water to the developers who suburbanized northern Marin and all of Sonoma County. (Only the late Joe Scaramella voted against the deal to basically give away in perpetuity Lake Mendocino’s water to downstream users.)
THIS DIVERTED EEL RIVER WATER, is stored behind Coyote dam and released all summer long to feed the burgeoning grape industry and communities from Novato to Cloverdale. With suburban sprawl having reached Ukiah, and PG&E abandoning its responsiblity for the diversion, a mad scramble has ensued to keep the Eel diverted. (The Russian, by the way, usually dried up altogether above Ukiah in the summer days before the diversion. Push has come to shove; the Eel is dying for downstream suburbs with, of course, wine people and other self-alleged “stewards of the land” clamoring for more of the Eel, not less.
THE AVA, as a public service, points out the vulnerability of the diversion tunnel itself. It was hand dug by Chinese labor. (Chinese labor did much of Mendocino County’s heavy lifting from 1880 or so until the anti-Asian pograms of 1910-20.) The stone and brick-lined conduit carries the purloined Eel a mile or so through through a ridge and on into Potter Valley’s old power-generating plant, then on through the lush fields of Potter Valley into the upper Russian. A couple of sticks of dynamite floated into the tunnel and ignited midway would immediately restore the Eel to God’s original design and severely crimp development north of Healdsburg where Santa Rosa is metastasizing to Ukiah. The next major earthquake, however, is more likely to demolish the tunnel.
WITH or without the diversion, Sonoma and Marin counties are obviously going to have to begin to draw more water from Lake Sonoma, a much larger reservoir than Lake Mendocino and one whose waters are virtually untapped as the burgeoning ‘burbs continue to enjoy the free flow of the Eel and the Russian. Mendocino County might also demand the ’55 deal with Sonoma County be re-done. Former Supervisor John Pinches, introduced that motion which, natch, died for a second.
TRUE CRIME PODCAST ABOUT MENDOCINO
My name is River Wade. I'm a resident of Ukiah and I just released a podcast ‘Darkness Lurks In The Redwoods’ that features true crime stories about Mendocino County. The first season focuses on the Manson Family and their time spent in Mendocino. I was hoping your newspaper might be interested in doing a feature on the podcast. You can listen to the podcast on any of your favorite streaming services. I'll attach an apple podcast link below...
Thank you so much!
— River Kolby Wade <email@example.com>
THE SEMPER FI PAPERS
Jacob Brown announces (October 17):
Exciting News: I’m Running for 2nd District Supervisor of Mendocino County!
Dear Friends and Family,
I hope this message finds you well. Today, I'm thrilled to share a new chapter in my life – I'm officially running for the position of 2nd District Supervisor in beautiful Mendocino County.
My decision to run stems from a deep commitment to our community and a strong desire to tackle critical issues head-on. Here are the key areas I'll be focusing on during my campaign:
Financial Responsibility: Mendocino County deserves the highest standards of fiscal responsibility. I'm dedicated to addressing the financial challenges that our county faces, including improving reporting and budgeting processes to ensure transparency and accountability.
Affordable Housing: Access to safe and affordable housing is a fundamental right. I am committed to working diligently to expand access to affordable housing options, ensuring that all our residents have a place to call home.
Homelessness Crisis: It's disheartening to see the homelessness crisis affecting our neighbors. I am determined to work tirelessly to find compassionate solutions to provide shelter, support, and a pathway to stability for those experiencing homelessness.
Economic Growth: Mendocino County holds immense potential for economic growth. I am committed to fostering an environment encouraging business growth, job creation, and economic prosperity for all our residents.
I embark on this journey with the knowledge that it's the support and trust of friends and family like you that make a difference. Your encouragement means everything to me, and I'm grateful for your unwavering belief in our vision for a better Mendocino County.
In the coming weeks and months, I will share more about my plans and ways you can get involved. Your input and participation are invaluable, and I'm eager to hear your thoughts and ideas.
Join me on this exciting path towards a stronger, more vibrant Mendocino County.
Stay tuned for updates, events, and opportunities to engage with the campaign. Your support is the driving force behind this movement.
Thank you for being part of this journey!
(October 24) ED NOTE: COUPLA SUGGESTIONS for you, Jacob Brown, candidate for 2nd District Supervisor.
I like your look, kid, a little truculent, a little wary, as indeed you should be if you hope to take the 2nd District seat from the uncomprehending incumbent. First, scrap the wuss-prose, as in “I'm thrilled to share a new chapter in my life....” The job isn't about you, it's about the rest of us taxed to our eyeballs to support a board of supervisors who are not competent to hold their positions. And there's nothing even particularly interesting about your announcement, let alone “thrilling.” The rest of your statement is basic Mendo Babble, boilerplate happy talk that alienates everyone, left, right and center, because it's insincere. You should come out swinging, and you look like a guy who's thrown a few punches, by simply pointing out that you hope to replace the incumbent because she's failed at her elected responsibilities, that the county is adrift, broke and leaderless. Etc. Anyway, good luck to you, Mr. Brown, you certainly can't do any worse than Ms. M.
Thank you for the nod to my look. It seems the Marine in me hasn't entirely faded – and being called a "kid" in my mid-forties? I'll take that as a win—credit to my Grandfather, George Merle Ginochio, for those youthful genes.
Now, let's talk "wuss-prose." I'll concede that my entrance into this political fray may have been reserved. It could be that inherent wariness you noticed. But just like in my Marine days, I adapt.
A brief on me: I'm a Ukiahan, through and through. Raised in Oak Manor, I now own a home in the neighborhood I grew up in. My roots here? Deep. Anecdotes of my Great-great-grandpa Jess Ginochio's heroics echo in family tales. I'm proud of my lineage and fiercely guard the county I call home.
I've dedicated years to Mendocino County's manufacturing base, climbing ladders at MFP and MetalFx, from Safety Manager to Superintendent of Mill Services to General Manager. I have been driven by one aim – ensuring my county's folks had good-paying jobs. My Marine-bred leadership, management degree, and ability to rally teams (a knack I discovered as a high school sports team captain) have always been my north star. Curious about my dedication? Just ask anyone I've worked alongside.
Mendocino is in dire need of a U-turn. The Board of Supervisors? Lacking direction. I can fill that leadership vacuum, but that's for the electorate to decide.
Oh, and about the punches – thrown a few, taken a few. That's life. But what's unacceptable? The current state of our county. Dodging needles while cycling with my kids or watching homelessness spiral due to addiction. Non-profits offer solutions, yet the Board remains paralyzed. Their go-to strategy? Another Ad Hoc committee. The inconsistency of county processes is palpable. I resonate with the frustration – the dearth of affordable housing, stagnant economic growth, or the looming cloud of the county's budget audit.
In short, we've got work to do. And I hope this piece proves I'm more than just "wuss-prose."
Jacob S. Brown
Candidate, Board of Supervisors 2nd District
ED REPLY: Best letter ever from a local political candidate, Mr. Brown, witty, to the point. You've won my support on this basis alone. And a Marine? Semper Fi, bro from PFC Anderson, USMC 1574007, honorably discharged in '65 after 8 years active and reserve service. You're just what the Second District needs. You might get in touch with former Second District supervisor John McCowen, who former CEO Angelo and her five gofers dysfunctioning as Supervisors, screwed over big time. He can be very helpful to you. Every day's a holiday, every meal's a banquet!
Village definition and examples-
"The word village comes from a French term referring to a group of buildings. That’s exactly what a village is—a small community in a rural area. Sometimes, larger towns incorporate the houses of a village as a municipality. Village can also refer to inhabitants of a village and is even applied to groups of animal dwellings." This is from Grammerly"
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It does seem like semantics. I think village. I have been here since 1985. It was created to match architecture in New England and has always been somewhat fru fru. Daisy MacCallum tried to create a high society image of it, along with a group of other women back in the day. To me they were creating a village, not a regular town, with all its baggage. I think denying village is denying its stuck up and all about image over reality. Carmel by the Sea is the preeminent stuffy village in California, 10x worse than Mendocino on the stuffy and stuck up parts. Anytime they add "By the Sea" You know the regular people and the artists need to move out in favor of wanna bee rich people artists. When I was a kid they added "By the Sea" to Manchester MASS. They were trying to become Carmel of the East coast and distance themself from Gloucester (Fort Bragg). So I vote Village for Mendo but not "By the Sea" Not that far gone yet. Now if you called it Albion Village or Albion by the Pot Garden or whatever someone would rightly punch you in the nose or Westport by the sea. LOL.
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Mendocino is not and never has been a village. Historically it's Mendocino City. I consider it an unincorporated town. The "village" thing began about 1985 when real estate and tourism hustlers began selling it as a "quaint VIctorian village by the sea" when in fact it's the remnant of a rough and tumble logging and sawmill town which had probably ten times as many saloons and brothels as it had churches. It's mostly newcomers with no historical knowledge who keep calling it Mendocino Village.
Every year around this time, well-meaning people with a lack of education about mushrooms decide that they should take to the internet and tell foragers how to pick.
This is admittedly really annoying, and it becomes easy to forget that most of these people *do* have good intentions, and are actually worried about the fungi's ability to survive if people pick them.
Let's go over some basics.
Mushrooms are just the fruiting body of a much larger, underground organism. This organism remains unaffected when you pluck the visible fruiting body.
There have been over a century's worth of international scientific studies on the effects of removing mushrooms fruiting bodies from their patches. *Every single study* concludes the same thing: mushrooms simply do not care how you pick them, or even how many you pick.
They will continue to survive (and thrive) if the nutrients and environment are sufficient for them to do so.
Don't use a rake or compact the ground more than necessary.
A well cited article from Fungi Magazine on the subject: https://www.fungimag.com/spring-2012.../LR_Agaricidal.pdf
A summary of the Swiss Study, which covered over 400 species and almost 30 years: https://www.conservationevidence.com/individual-study/230
Government funded USDA study on picking PNW Cantharellus: https://www.fs.usda.gov/research/treesearch/5298
The "but the animals" and the "insects eat mushrooms too" crowds can also rest easy. No mammals are truly reliant on mushrooms for food, and insects have the ability to thrive in mushrooms that humans cannot eat.
The thousands upon thousands of these mushrooms that rot in the woods *after* dozens of commercial pickers every year make me think that folks who scream the loudest have the smallest amount of understanding.
LARRY SHEEHY: Places! I just learned tonight from a dear friend that there's a song out there about Ukiah (called ‘Ukiah’), where I've lived (and in the region) since moving here to Mendo in 1985. So, here's the song (and lyrics), new to me tonight, ‘Ukiah’ by The Doobie Brothers from 1973! Older folks might remember them
Also a few stock photos I found of the Yokayo Valley, where sits Ukiah. First, The Doobie Brothers, then in comments a few photos. There's also a nice photo of a Ukiah downtown area neighborhood.
Liner notes from the YouTube: “Music: It was ‘Ukiah’ with The Doobie Brothers, but the song was removed or silenced, deleted or muted due to copyright issues! (I Personally believe music should be shared worldwide for free, In this case, I just wanted to share this pic with that song that matched the best) It is not my intention to profit just to share, so however. I will leave posted this video with some pictures and videos from Ukiah, California.”
People rushin' everywhere
If they'd only slow down once they might find something there
Green trees and timber land
People workin' with their hands
For sure a different way to live
Gonna keep my cabin at hand
Retreat and live off the land
All around Ukiah, woah
The mountain streams that rush on by
Show the fish a-jumpin' and reflect the open sky
The fresh clean smell of the pines
Symbol of unchanging times
All around this sacred land
Strangely, though, I've found my way
Right here I'm gonna stay
In this land Ukiah, woah
The fresh clean smell of the pines
Symbol of unchanging times
All around this sacred land
Strangely, though, I've found my way
Right here I'm a-gonna stay
In this land Ukiah, woah
FROM THE VAULT…
A trip through the looking glass: A 1999 AV Unified School Board Meeting
by Mark Scaramella
The Anderson Valley School Board never needs an invitation to be pleased with itself, but last Thursday night’s board meeting was characterized by an almost giddy board delighted in its own performance. The beaming smiles of self-congratulation were ignited by a remark from a visiting state education representative that the school board and its administration should be very pleased with the performances of its junior high and high schools and, by extension, the school board’s own vigilant and astute oversight of the two institutions.
The presence of Mrs. Nancy Todd, a former Ukiah-area school principal, now described rather ominously as “S4 Director, Region I, Lake County Office of Education,” was the occasion for three hours of self-congratulation. Mrs. Todd had also been a member of a four-person accrediting team which had recently visited Boonville to evaluate its junior and senior high schools. She reappeared last Thursday night to deliver a snappy lecture to the school board called, “When we get back your state test results, what should be know (sic) about them? What do we do with them?”
Stand reality on its head, it seems.
Mrs. Todd, who is obviously quite smart and articulate, which made her effusive concluding remarks about the success of Anderson Valley’s mediocre and often non-existent educational program even more startling, also identified herself as the “Consultant on Accountability” for the State’s new “STAR” testing program. The “S4” embossed on the paper Mrs. Todd’s presented to the school board, and handed out to the four persons in the audience, seems to have no military or police implications in an era of metal detectors and armed policemen in the nation’s schools.
The accreditation team was so impressed by Anderson Valley High School’s staff and course of study, the district has been awarded the maximum six-year accreditation by the Association of California Schools, a private business operating out of a motel suite near San Francisco International Airport. ACS’s down market headquarters and its immediate proximity to flights to destinations on the other side of the globe are assumed to be unrelated to the enterprise’s long-term viability. The accreditation process cost Anderson Valley about $5,400. No school in the state has ever been unaccredited.
The accreditation report consisted of an incoherent series of unrelated and entirely unsupported assertions having to do with Anderson Valley High School’s academic program. As a clarifying document it is without value, a fact the alert Mrs. Todd, if she read it, would have to have been aware of.
But no. She declared that the report and the school it purported to describe were both, well, exhilarating! The superlatives bubbled up out of her matronly bosom as if from the very fount of edu-delights itself.
The new testing program, Mrs. Todd explained, was developed by some high-priced talent at Harcourt-Brace, one of the country’s leading publishers of the vast and lucratively fluid textbook market. Every new educational fad, and PC dispute about America’s unique historical experience means millions for H-B in hasty re-writes. As much of the world looks on aghast at the worst system of education in the industrial world, H-B, and its well-paid gofers in the state education bureaucracy, constantly revise standardized tests downward to hide the grim facts of a failed system of public instruction. Harcourt-Brace dispatches folks like Mrs. Todd to interpret the jiggered stats and the dumbed down tests to school boards and school administrators.
Mrs. Todd had her rap down.
Her presentation was a potpourri of percentiles, deciles, norms, and averages at the end of which Anderson Valley had miraculously emerged “slightly above average.” Average got short shrift because it now is known to be in the upper retarded range.
Mrs. Todd, as Board President Marti Bradford’s famous smile illuminated the room, complimented AV for having achieved slightly above average status in spite of about half its student body being of “limited English proficiency,” aka Mexican immigrants, also described as “lower economic status students,” the “disadvantaged,” and several other of the euphemisms which disguise American economic realities and the growing disparities between the rich and the poor now characteristic of even Anderson Valley’s bifurcated society. However, and despite the drag the poor have on the dazzling test scores of Anderson Valley’s otherwise brilliant youth — white middleclass and college bound — Mrs. Todd emphasized that the tests only ranked students according to how they compared with the national average, not on whether they were meeting grade-level standards.
But, Mrs. Todd cautioned, while the test results could be used in conjunction with other criteria to hold failed students back, Harcourt-Brace would not support their use as grounds for denying promotion or diplomas.
Harcourt-Brace, and Mrs. Todd, fear lawyers more than they fear school systems unable to teach young people how to read.
“You can’t use these tests for high-stakes consequences,” said Todd. “Harcourt-Brace doesn’t want to find themselves in court being sued by parents who can hire statistics experts to prove that the tests are limited.”
“The tests can be used to rank schools but not children,” the Accountability Consultant continued, pointing out that California’s already underperforming schools, which rank low on the tests, may be eligible for extra state money — more money being the eternal answer to public education’s overwhelming ills.
Although it’s true that some schools are badly underfunded due to the state’s practice of basing their funding on local property taxes, rewarding bad schools no matter how poorly they perform, assumes that poor performance is never the fault of the people running the schools or teaching in them.
Board Chair Marti Bradford asked Todd, “What about our Multiple Measures Assessment, with writing samples, grades, etc.? Is that out the window?”
Todd answered that she wasn’t sure, repeating her sensible views on the limitations of testing. But then replied, “But yes, they’ll probably scrap that,” adding, “You’ll still need multiple in-house ways of measuring progress if you’re going to retain a student.”
The old tests the school district used to assess its mostly doomed student body was now passe and a new set of standards more acceptable to evasive school professionals was in the works, as Harcourt Brace picks up another great big pile of edu-bucks.
Todd said there’d eventually be some new books to accompany the new testing, particularly for mathematics. The books and tests will be released this year and are much more difficult than previous math tests, she said, because the general public and their demagogic elected representatives are demanding “accountability” and “standards.”
Superintendent J.R. Collins said he thought the new tests were just another of the destructive educational fads California’s apparently incompetent cadre of career educators has foisted off on several recent generations of the state’s children, crippling their ability to read, write and perform basic mathematical calculations. “Five years from now we’ll have a new path,” Collins noted.
When Todd informed the District that the recently concluded reading tests indicated that AV High was slightly above average, she added, “You should be pleased.”
“We’re glad to hear that,” grinned Bradford. Average is good. Slightly above average is excellent. The schools are excellent, the teachers excellent, and the school board is most excellent of all.
* * *
Following a half-hour closed session, and after Mrs. Todd had tooled off into the March-like winds in a spiffy convertible sports car, their excellencies the school board listened to several teachers describe their roles in the recently concluded (and thrillingly fraudulent) accreditation process. Their focus was on the report’s opaque “Action Plan.” They talked about the “Leadership Team” (teacher get-togethers), “peer coaching” (teachers dropping in on other teachers’ classes and having a chat), re-reviews of the Action Plan, “Goals and Priorities”… “It’s an exhaustive process,” wheezed history teacher Ken Jones, who received a $2500 stipend for his clearly Herculean work in preparing the final Accreditation Report and was still winded from the effort weeks later.
Several routine practices which are standard procedure in other school districts were presented to the Boonville school board as major pedagogical leaps forward.
Junior High English/history/reading teacher Ann Panttaja, who at least seems aware of what constitutes an essay, described how teachers of all classes will now be expected to grade students’ writing ability as well as student knowledge of subject matter. She also described a ground-breaking meeting that had been held earlier this year for parents of kids receiving “cinch notices” — warnings that their kids might flunk a class — which had been helpful in getting a majority of the academically teetering youngsters to improve their grades. Panttaja said the parents of the slackers had asked “hard questions” of the teachers, but didn’t repeat any of the tough love queries to the board, and the board, of course, didn’t ask. Asking questions implies skepticism, skepticism implies negativity, the ultimate Mendoland sin.
Elementary School teacher Donna Pierson-Pugh said that teachers were putting in extra effort for the parents of potential dunces and that the group meetings with the parents of poor performing students were more effective than individual meetings.
Trustee Michael Addison, who always seems ready to inflate the ordinary to the pedagogical equivalent of moon shots, thought parent conferences and corrected English in all classes should be highlighted in the press. “One hopes that the public is made aware of this,” he urged as an apparent goad to the reporter present.
Collins said that non-English speakers who were behind in English were being given an extra period of attention in lieu of elective classes. This way the school can avoid having to extend the school day for slower students and save some money, and teachers don’t have to put in any extra unpaid time. (AVHS teachers don’t even bother to feign the idealism most teachers at least rhetorically claim.)
The teachers are still working on local graduation standards for all grades in literacy and math — there apparently haven’t been any. There was talk of a “portfolio” which would accompany each student from grade to grade describing what the kid knows — there having been none previously.
More accolades for practices assumed most places for a hundred years.
“The standards will need some teeth to make them work,” warned Pierson-Pugh, her toothless colleagues nodding agreement.
Standards with “teeth” in them would constantly be biting the whole enterprise in its smug, oblivious, overpaid, lazy, delusional, arse, if you, dear reader, will permit this nugget of negativity.
After Collins reported that the school district’s six-year accreditation was official, trustee Addison said that he had sat in on many of the accreditation meetings and “was impressed by the raw passion” he alone seems to have noted in the process. He conceded that the accreditation report “had been written in language that seems like jargon,” but after listening to this evening’s rehash he had been “re-energized” and was “impressed with the improved morale” of the staff in dealing with “a difficult population in an isolated rural setting.” (Boonville is exactly two and one-half hours north of downtown San Francisco.)
Addison credited superintendent Collins for sagely steering the accreditation to success and insisted it was not “just another blather-blather” report nor was it at all “self-serving.” “The people who did the report were qualified because they came from similar rural schools. Who better to do it?” he asked. “We were well-served and I am encouraged by the energy that went into this,” Addison added — the “we” in this case being the school staff and the school board, certainly not the public at large who were, as per ancient custom, both unaware of the big event and would not have been included had they been aware.
Addison either hadn’t read the report or he’s even more intellectually corrupt than we’d suspected. The report is a barely coherent, and a self-serving charade, front to back.
“I’d like to thank all of you,” beamed board prexy Bradford to the various accreditation participants. “I enjoyed all your hard work. It’s very impressive.”
Trustees Pat McClure and Nancy Maillaird were silent throughout the entire accreditation discussion. One might assume, on the basis of no evidence whatsoever, the two trustees possess a residual integrity and couldn’t bring themselves to endorse what is clearly a fraud on local young people and their parents.
Describing a clearly moronic (and expensive) exercise in false educational evaluation as “impressive,” again demonstrates that the reason there are no standards at the high school is that the school board itself has no standards.
Principal Collins presented his “Anderson Valley Charter Network” proposal, pointing out that his main objective was simply to re-capture full average daily attendance (ADA) funding for District’s home-schooling students in the wake of the layoff of the home-school coordinator because the seven home-school students didn’t bring in enough ADA money to fund her. But if they were converted to charter school enrollment they would bring in the full $4500 per student, which would pay for a staff coordinator.
He emphasized again that a District-controlled Charter School was a way for “teachers and employees to work within the bargaining agreement and be covered by CTA rules. It is not a way to pay less or deprive anyone of benefits.”
When Collins was asked what “innovations” he planned for the District’s own Charter Network, and if teachers would work under the same rules, hours and schedules, Collins replied only that he would “work with staff” and that “innovation is possible.” When a teacher in the audience pointed out some of the vague language in the proposal, Collins could only reply, “I can’t answer, we’re just casting out.” Searching for words, Collins continued, “In the home school area it won’t be much different. We’ll have to develop a procedure for new programs. But this is an elegant solution to the home-school funding problem.” The District wants to move quickly to finalize the still vague Charter concept so that it can be in place by the beginning of the school year next fall.
There was more discussion of retention standards. Elementary school principal Lynn Zimmerman, as usual the only reality-based educator in the room, presented copies of “Light’s Retention Scale,” a numerical retention guide based on scoring a student on 19 factors including sex, age, knowledge of English, physical size, grade, previous retention, siblings, parental school involvement, social and cultural background, number of different schools, attendance, general intelligence, learning disability, grade level, attitude toward retention, motivation, maturity, emotional level, and delinquency history.
Collins said the state still wasn’t sure when it was going to implement its new “no social promotions” policy, and the board, as usual, wasn’t in any hurry to get tough. Zimmerman said that there had been a few retentions recently, “but it’s very selective.” “It’s not fair to hold kids back unless the criteria are clear,” Zimmerman added.
Ms. Panttaja said that the high school’s literacy standards exist only in draft form. They will address both the “content and mechanics” of writing, she said, and student essays will have to address basic elements like scene setting, appropriate details, an assessment of the relevance of the material to the subject, conclusions, and so forth. “Kids know we expect success,” she added optimistically and in face of an abundance of evidence to the contrary.
Ms. Zimmerman pointed out that the District doesn’t have the funds to offer the extra attention that slower students require. And Anderson Valley’s grasping crew of teachers don’t do anything they aren’t paid to do.
A parent who had been reviewing the Light Retention Scale complained that she had never seen the Scale. “Why haven’t we been shown this before?” she asked. “According to this my child would be a prime candidate for retention and nothing has been done.”
Trustee Addison asked about “oral proficiency” (presumably meaning student ability to read aloud, not teenage sex practices). Addison also wondered if students should be expected to read a certain number of books on their grueling march towards literacy. Ms. Panttaja replied that that was “not addressed as far as it can be.”
The rest of the evening was spent on routine matters: Next year’s $4.5 million budget will include more money for everyone, most spectacularly $70k a year for superintendent Collins to go along with his new four-year contract; summer school classes; the fall schedule; reduction of preschool and food service staff… More money for the upper end of the district’s pay scale, less money and staff at the kid end.
Four school staffers have been presented layoff notices for alleged budgetary shortfalls, perhaps caused by the undeserved raises everybody else seems to have gotten. James Tomlin, Wendy Patterson, Frances Koliner and Beverly Karkuff have received their walking papers. Of the four, only Ms. Koliner requested a hearing (appeal) of the layoff, pointing out that her credentials, experience and tenured position had been ignored but teachers less qualified had been retained. From all accounts a truly excellent, hardworking and conscientious teacher, Ms. Koliner’s claim was of course denied last month by a State Hearing Officer.
Three school board seats will be up for election in November of 1999. Anderson Valley parents fed up with the ongoing fraud of a high school program and the utter bankruptcy of a school board lacking even a semblance of integrity, should take steps to regain control of a school district that is stealing your children’s futures.
CATCH OF THE DAY, Wednesday, October 25, 2023
DAVID AMUNDSON, Ukiah. Controlled substance, paraphernalia, concealed dirk-dagger, probation revocaiton.
DREW ERSLAND, Ukiah. Controlled substance, under influence, bringing controlled substance into jail, county parole violation.
THOMAS HIDALGO, Ukiah. Parole violation.
FORREST MORTIMER, Laytonville. Brandishing.
SEBASTIAN RABANO, Ukiah. Domestic battery, parole violation.
JOSEPH SMITH, Willits. Failure to register as felony sex offender.
JAMES MARMON remembers the quake of '89: I just got off my shift in Upper Lake where we were building a bridge on hwy 29. I had been under that bridge all day stripping the forms, fresh concrete. I was in the shower when the earthquake hit getting ready to watch the A's and Giants World Series Game. My Company was located next to the pancaked freeway in Oakland, my boss got into one of our of his cranes and immediately got into rescue mode. The next day, our cranes and other equipment were called back to Oakland. Our operation in Upper Lake was put on hold for several months
STEVE HOWLAND WRITES:
SF Fillmore's Jazz Era
Re: your Oct. 6 comment about the PBS film ‘The Fillmore,’ do you know the book ‘Harlem of the West: The San Francisco's Fillmore Jazz Era’? Full of great pics, interesting text, maps of where all the clubs used to be, including “Bop City,” which is among the featured venues. Lots of greats turn up in the photos--Ellington, Coltrane, Chet Baker, plenty more. The two authors of the book contributed to the movie, which preceded it by five or six years. Harlem of the West - The San Francisco Fillmore Jazz Era Paperback
As for the patrons, everybody's got a shine in his eye that's halfway hopeful: jobs aplenty, at least during the war, and the neighborhood a landing spot for lots of folks from the rural south. And there's a kid from Mill Valley named John Goddard who haunted the scene, too.
My copy was passed on to me by Fred Gardner. I was a lunatic free jazz zealot back in the 70s, lately calmed down enough to appreciate the likes of Chet Baker.
PS. Thanks for printing the funniest scene in the funniest Charles Portis novel...
49ERS’ BROCK PURDY IN CONCUSSION PROTOCOL, backup Sam Darnold could start vs. Bengals
by Eric Branch
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy is in the NFL’s concussion protocol, raising the possibility that backup Sam Darnold will make his first start with the team when the 49ers look to snap their two-game losing streak Sunday against the Bengals at Levi’s Stadium.
Purdy took every snap in the 49ers’ 22-17 loss to the Vikings on Monday night. Head coach Kyle Shanahan said Purdy began experiencing symptoms on the return flight to the Bay Area.
Purdy completed 21 of 30 passes for 272 yards with a touchdown, but he threw interceptions on the 49ers’ final two possessions. Before Purdy threw two picks in his final five pass attempts Monday, he’d thrown just two interceptions in his previous 288 attempts, including playoff games. Shanahan said “not really” when asked if anything from Purdy’s performance suggested he might have suffered a concussion.
Purdy’s chances of receiving medical clearance before Sunday figure to be lessened, given the 49ers’ short week after playing Monday night. Shanahan said Purdy could participate in part of the 49ers’ walkthrough practice Wednesday afternoon.
Darnold, 26, who was signed in March, went 4-2 and posted a 92.6 passer rating in six season-ending starts with the Panthers last season. He completed 22 of 33 passes for 282 yards with two touchdowns and an interception (94.0) rating in three preseason games this summer.
“I have as much confidence with Sam as I could have with someone I haven’t gone into a real NFL game with,” Shanahan said. “He was great here in the offseason. He’s been great here in these seven weeks (in the regular season) so far. He’s always ready to go. He’s great in the meetings.”
Darnold, the No. 3 overall pick of the Jets in 2018, has a 21-34 record as a starter and his career passer rating (78.2) ranks last among the 36 QBs who have thrown at least 1,000 passes over the past four-plus seasons.
As far as Purdy possibly playing against Cincinnati with minimal practice, Shanahan noted Purdy didn’t throw a pass in practice before last season’s 21-13 win at Seattle in which he played with injuries to his rib and oblique.
Shanahan said he didn’t know when Purdy was injured against the Vikings, who had just one sack and three QB hits. Purdy did have back-to-back QB sneaks on the 49ers’ penultimate drive in the fourth quarter. He threw his first interception on the snap following his second sneak. Purdy also was hit hard by pass rushers Danielle Hunter and D.J. Wonnum on an 18-yard completion to wideout Jauan Jennings in the first quarter.
A GUNMAN armed with an AR 15-style rifle in Lewiston, Maine has shot dead multiple people and injured up to 60 more across three separate locations, sparking a massive manhunt across the state. Police sources say there are 22 dead, and 50-60 injured. The toll is not confirmed, but Maine's hospitals said they were declaring a mass casualty event. A photo issued by sheriffs showed a white man with an AR-15-style rifle and a laser optic sight entering the Sparetime bowling alley/recreation center, wearing black combat trousers and a brown top. His face is clearly visible. The neighboring city of Auburn has also been placed on lockdown. Police in Lewiston have also issued a photo of the white car they are seeking, saying it could have a black-painted bumper. They have also mentioned a black pickup as a possible second involved vehicle. “There is an active shooter situation in the city of Lewiston,” said Maine state police. “Law enforcement is asking people to shelter in place. Please stay inside your home with the doors locked.” Police audio said the two locations were Schemengee's bar and grill, and Sparetime recreation center. The two sites are around four miles apart, in Maine's second-largest city. Police were then called to a third location, a Walmart distribution center, said Derrick St. Laurent, a Lewiston spokesman.
Update: A 40-year old Army reservist military gun instructor named Robert Card has been identified as the shooter.
ON-LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
I often argue for population control because on a simplistic level it is the most rational and central solution to so many human problems…political, environmental, economic and historical.
Problem with population control as an actual, real-life solution is… it doesn’t account for people being monsters. It assumes a pretty utopian view of human beings’ ability to operate collectively and rationally. So my support for it is not totally fake, but more theoretical and less real.
Without population-control, I don’t see any ultimate outcome to current trajectories that is not chaotic and gruesome (though often, but not always, slow and incremental in human-time). But pressed, I will say gruesome chaos is probably the real, natural and right solution to current human situations, not any population-control program.
ON-LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
My mom told me how embarrassed she was when her class went on a field trip, and she didn’t have a nickel to buy a Coke like the other kids did.
I was like, why was the school letting them buy Cokes anyway?
When I was a kid and went on field trips, we never went to the gift shop. Why would a gift shop be part of a field trip?
But I chaperoned for my kids at times, and they always shepherded them to the gift shop, which I found annoying.
How is learning to blow money on worthless trinkets part of education?
I don’t think we ever wore costumes to school, either. Halloween was a night time activity.
Pride causes us to associate ideas with self-esteem. This character defect prevents open discussion and creates resistance to change. An example of this is the internal-combustion engine controversy. Its reliance on fossil fuels is a crucial flaw. Scientists like Arie Haagan-Smit proved burning petroleum products created air pollution as early as 1950. Corporate self-interest stimulated denial, stalled change and exacerbated consequences.
U.S. SENATOR ARRESTED IN HONG KONG
OMG, here’s a most intriguing segment by Sha Hua of the Wall Street Journal. According to the article a senator Jeff Wilson was in flight to Hong Kong and reached into his bag for a piece of gum, and noticed the gun. Quote “the baggage screeners at the airport in the U.S. hadn’t detected it. A Republican of Longview Washington. OMG, the fine is $12,800 dollars and up to 14 years in prison. In my opinion this sounds like a (planted) situation. The U.S. authorities would (never) allow a pistol to go on a plane on (carry-on baggage). Someone else or a group wanted him gone.
FAR RIGHT GETS ITS MAN OF THE HOUSE
by Carl Hulse
The new speaker, Mike Johnson, is virtually unknown to most Americans, but he can be expected to press a hard-right social and fiscal agenda.
In the end, Republican hard-liners got their man.
He wasn’t the person whom the most extreme element of House Republicans really wanted — that was Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio, the godfather of the far right in the House who ultimately was too toxic to ascend to the top post and fell short.
But the new Speaker Mike Johnson of Louisiana, a man unknown to most Americans, is a second choice the far right can enthusiastically embrace. He shares the deeply conservative ideology of his mentor Mr. Jordan but lacks the confrontational profile or hard-edge style of the Ohioan. In fact, he has little profile at all.
Mr. Johnson, a second-tier member of the House leadership first elected in 2016, is the most obscure lawmaker to rise to the helm of the House since J. Dennis Hastert of Illinois was plucked from near the backbenches in 1998 to become speaker after Representative Tom DeLay, that period’s version of Mr. Jordan, realized he could not succeed Newt Gingrich.
But Mr. Hastert, who later was disgraced in a sexual abuse scandal, had developed a reputation for spearheading health care legislation. If Mr. Johnson has a reputation at all, it is as a savvy and smooth constitutional lawyer who wrote a brief offering a legal justification for trying to overturn the 2020 election and served as a defender of President Donald J. Trump against impeachment.
Republicans see the fact that he is virtually unknown outside his Louisiana district as an advantage, giving him a chance to introduce himself to the public on his own terms.
But there should be no mistaking his extremely conservative views on social issues such as abortion rights and same-sex marriage, which Democrats can be expected to aggressively highlight in their efforts to tie more mainstream House Republicans to their new leader in their push to regain control of the chamber.
He is the first head of the arch-conservative Republican Study Committee to take the speaker’s gavel, and though he is not a member of the far-right Freedom Caucus, he shares many of the group’s positions. His strong standing on the right was underscored minutes after his nomination Tuesday night. Mr. Johnson was surrounded by some of the most extreme House Republicans, who shouted down questions about his effort to overturn the election and other policy issues, with one lawmaker, Representative Virginia Foxx of North Carolina, shouting at reporters to shut up.
Mr. Johnson is fundamentally more conservative than the ousted speaker, Kevin McCarthy, who despite his frequent partisan attacks realized he needed to cut deals with Democrats to keep the government solvent and operating. He twice this year passed critical legislation with Democratic votes — ultimately sparking the coup that led to his downfall.
Whether Mr. Johnson shares that same bipartisan imperative with a mid-November deadline looming for keeping the government open will become clear in the coming weeks. He will need to navigate his way out of a spending impasse that has split House Republicans before he even gets to negotiations with the White House and Senate leaders who now find themselves dealing with an unknown and untested new partner.
On the plus side for the new speaker, Mr. Johnson is certain to enjoy a honeymoon period with those on the right who had a deep distrust of Mr. McCarthy and feared he would work with Democrats, as he ultimately did. They are likely to grant him considerable leeway in figuring out the spending morass with just a few weeks remaining before the government runs out of money.
Mr. Johnson has proposed the idea of a lengthy stopgap spending bill to allow the House to take up its own funding measures, but they have been snarled by bitter Republican feuds, and it is uncertain whether the House can approve them.
Mr. Johnson was far from the first choice of his own colleagues. He was something of a desperation candidate as House Republicans entered a fourth week without a speaker, leaving the institution paralyzed and Republicans looking inept. Representative Tom Emmer of Minnesota, the No. 3 House Republican, defeated him Tuesday morning in an internal vote for the speaker nomination — an outcome that traditionally would have led to Mr. Emmer’s being elected speaker on the House floor.
But the old rules are gone. Hard-right conservatives quickly went to work to deny Mr. Emmer any chance of obtaining the necessary votes on the floor and forced him to withdraw in just four hours. That opened the door to a second round of nominations. Again, Mr. Johnson did not initially win a majority but finally prevailed after multiple rounds of voting.
Some more mainstream Republicans had stood against Mr. Jordan because they believed his allies had been underhanded in their sabotage of Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana, who defeated Mr. Jordan in a vote for the speaker nomination. They vowed that Mr. Jordan would never be rewarded for such tactics. But with the party becoming a national laughingstock because of its inability to find a leader, no effort to deny Mr. Johnson surfaced, and Republicans rallied to Mr. Johnson’s side, even though he had initially lost to Mr. Emmer.
The episode proved anew to hard-right Republicans that if they are willing to break party norms and ignore their own majority’s position, they can still prevail — an outcome that Mr. Johnson might later find does not always work in his favor as speaker of the whole House.
The Israeli military said on Thursday that it had briefly sent tanks into the northern Gaza Strip overnight as part of preparations for the next stage of fighting, after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu indicated that a ground invasion of the enclave was likely.
It was at least the second time in the conflict that Israel had conducted a limited ground raid in Gaza, after it said some troops had briefly entered the territory two weeks ago. The military said in a Telegram post that it had hit multiple targets and “operated to prepare the battlefield,” without offering details.
Nearly three weeks after the war began, it remains unclear if or when Israel will launch a ground invasion of Gaza. In a televised speech on Wednesday evening, Mr. Netanyahu did not offer details on the scope of a possible invasion, but vowed that Israel would exact a price for the Oct. 7 incursion led by the Hamas armed group that resulted in the massacre of more than 1,400 people.
The United States has asked Israel to delay a ground invasion of Gaza for a few days to give it more time to provide more protection for American troops at bases in the region, according to U.S. officials. The Biden administration has also been trying to buy more time for hostage negotiations and to allow more aid to enter Gaza. It also wants the Israeli military to refine its military objectives and potentially move away from a grinding urban fight that would incur large casualties.
In the meantime, Israel has been relentlessly bombing Gaza from the air, carrying out more than 250 strikes over the past day, its military said. Israel says it is hitting Hamas targets, but Palestinians accuse it of indiscriminately killing civilians. The Hamas-run Gazan Health Ministry says more than 6,500 have died. Those figures cannot be independently verified, and President Biden on Wednesday questioned their accuracy.
Here is what else to know:
Fuel shortages in the Gaza Strip have grown so dire that the U.N. agency that has helped feed, school and shelter Palestinians there for decades said that it had begun to significantly reduce its operations. It said it had nearly exhausted its reserves of fuel, which it needs to run generators. Israel has blocked fuel from entering Gaza on the grounds that it could be used by Hamas for military objectives.
Almost a third of the 35 hospitals in Gaza are not functioning, the World Health Organization said Wednesday, and seven major hospitals were well over capacity. The United Nations says the amount of aid that has entered Gaza is only a fraction of what is needed.
The United Nations General Assembly on Thursday is poised to vote on a resolution calling for a cease-fire in the conflict. General Assembly resolutions are not binding but reflect a wider global view than the U.N. Security Council, which has been deeply divided on a response to the war.
The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday overwhelmingly passed a resolution declaring solidarity with Israel and pledging to support it in its war with Hamas. Separately, Mr. Biden’s pick to serve as the next U.S. ambassador to Israel, Jacob J. Lew, is poised to be confirmed to the post in the coming days.
ISRAELI THINK TANK LAYS OUT A BLUEPRINT FOR THE COMPLETE ETHNIC CLEANSING OF GAZA
An Israeli think tank with ties to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a report on October 17 promoting the “unique and rare opportunity” for the “relocation and final settlement of the entire Gaza population.”…
UKRAINE, WEDNESDAY, 25TH OCTOBER
Russia continued to pound the shattered eastern Ukrainian city of Avdiivka but Ukrainian officials said heavy losses had forced them to switch to air attacks. Oleksandr Shtupun, spokesperson for Ukraine’s southern group of forces, told national television that Russia “dropped about 40 guided aerial bombs in two nights. But the number of ground assaults has been reduced”. Shtupun said about 2,400 Russians had been killed or wounded over the previous five days of fighting in the Donetsk region.
At least eight people were injured in Russian shelling of front-line regions of Ukraine. Ukraine’s Interior Minister Igor Klymenko said four people, including a 12-year-old, were wounded by Russian air strikes and artillery fire in the southern Kherson region, and another four were taken to hospital after an attack on the northeast region of Kharkiv.
Russia’s Ministry of Defence said its naval forces destroyed three unmanned Ukrainian boats in the northern part of the Black Sea off Crimea. Moscow annexed the peninsula in 2014.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told a security conference in Prague that Kyiv would keep up military pressure on occupied Crimea, having shattered the “illusion” of Russia’s domination of Crimea and the Black Sea. Zelenskyy said that the Russian fleet was “no longer capable” of operating in the western part of the Black Sea and was gradually retreating from Crimea. He did not offer evidence for the claim.
More than half the members of Ukraine’s newly-formed Siberian Battalion are Russian citizens, the Reuters news agency reported. The Russian recruits to the 50-strong battalion are mainly Siberia’s Indigenous people and want to fight “Russian imperialism”, Reuters said, citing a Ukrainian military officer who preferred not to be named. The battalion is part of the International Legion within the Ukrainian Armed Forces.
— Al Jazeera
I GOT VERY CLOSE TO HAWAII'S FORBIDDEN ISLAND, AND WHAT I SAW WAS MESMERIZING
by Ashley Harrell
After more than two hours of skimming over impossibly blue waves, about 17 miles off the Hawaiian island of Kauai, the time has finally arrived. Our boat is closing in on Niihau, the Forbidden Island, whose arid flanks slope dramatically skyward and call to mind a flat-top haircut.
We won’t be allowed to set foot on the enigmatic Hawaiian island, as strict policies guard this privately owned soil from most visitors, but the plan is to scuba dive very near it. Just beyond its shores, we’ll glide over seamounts and through lava formations, alongside big sharks and — if we’re lucky — endangered Hawaiian monk seals. In between dives, though, we’ll have clear views of the island itself. Maybe we’ll even catch a glimpse of the inhabitants.
A few dozen Hawaiians live on Niihau in much the same way their ancestors did. There are also populations of aoudad and eland — African game that trophy hunters helicopter in to kill. The trips are wildly expensive, but once you’ve heard the story of Niihau, it begins to feel worth it.
Like the rest of the archipelago, the island formed when a hot spot beneath the sea spewed molten lava that became new land, about 6 million years ago. Apparently, the island was a whole lot bigger back then, but about 5 million years ago, most of it collapsed. Left behind were Niihau and a smaller neighbor Lehua, a crescent-shaped volcanic cone frequented by seabirds.
Niihau’s first people were the ancestors of seafaring Polynesians who arrived in double-hulled sailing canoes. They were ruled by Hawaiian nobility, and the island’s coveted shells are named for its first leader, Kahelelani, who was born in the early 17th century. In 1864, King Kamehameha IV sold Niihau to Elizabeth Sinclair, a Scottish plantation owner, for $10,000 in gold. Part of the agreement was that Sinclair would preserve the culture and traditions, and her descendants who now own the island but do not reside there — the Robinson family — continue to honor that agreement.
To this day, only Native Hawaiians are allowed to live on the island, and Niihau is the only place on Earth where Hawaiian is the primary language. There are no paved roads, no internet or telephone services, no running water, and no power lines, although solar panels do provide electricity.
Visitors are limited to members of the Robinson family, invited guests of residents, and a small number of tourists who book private helicopter and hunting tours run by the Robinson family’s company. According to the company website, helicopter tours cost $630 per person, with a minimum of five people (so, $3,150 minimum), and the hunting tours start at $3,300 per person.
Killing an aoudad (an African goat) entails a trophy fee of $2,700, on top of the hunting fee of $3,300 per day. If you want to kill an eland (the world’s largest antelope), the trophy fee is $3,700.
“I heard no one is allowed to take any photos on the tours,” one of the divemasters told me as we zipped toward the island. Others who had read or heard about the island chimed in with more rumors, but everyone agreed that getting accurate information about what goes on around Niihau is almost impossible.
There has been at least one violation of the visitor rule. In 1941, a Japanese pilot crash-landed on the island after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, setting off a series of events known as the Niihau Incident, which has been retold in books, on film and on this website. The story ends with one local bashing the pilot’s head in with a rock, another dying by suicide and two more being sent to concentration camps.
To know about Niihau is to want to go to Niihau, or to get as close as possible anyway. For those who can’t afford to spend thousands of dollars on a helicopter ride or safari, the only option left is to take a boat. A few companies run snorkel and diving trips nearby, and I went with Seasport Divers, a longstanding and reputable outfitter with a big, luxurious dive boat. I was in luck, because during my trip to Kauai, the company would be running its final Niihau trip of the season. (Come October, rougher seas often make the crossings unbearable.)
Everyone on the boat had logged at least 30 dives, as extensive experience is required for the Niihau trip. Most people had advanced certifications, and some even worked as divemasters for other Kauai dive shops. Turns out, pretty much any serious diver jumps at the opportunity to go to Niihau, where the combination of dramatic underwater topography, big pelagic animals and unusual little creatures makes for an unforgettable day.
As we prep for our first dive and receive the safety briefing, my gaze keeps drifting to the islands, which look nothing like verdant Kauai. Because Kauai’s mountains capture most of the region’s rainfall, Niihau and Lehua are largely barren, and surrounding waters mostly undisturbed by sediment offer scuba divers superior visibility. As the first of the divers giant-strides off the boat, an endangered Hawaiian monk seal welcomes them to the depths.
The monk seal is one of only two endemic mammals in Hawaii, the other being the hoary bat. Thanks to threats such as habitat encroachment, marine debris, entanglement in fishing nets and low genetic variation, there are only around 1,570 of these seals left in the world, and remote, sparsely populated Niihau offers travelers the best chance of seeing one.
I end up being one of the last people off the boat, and by the time I reach the bottom, the seal has already taken off. At around 80 feet, our group of five divers begins to explore massive, eroded lava formations brimming with marine life. When there isn’t a big, circling sandbar shark capturing my attention, the divemaster is pointing out colorful endemic fish species and sea slugs, or we are gliding down a massive seawall alongside a “fish fall” teeming with rare pyramid butterflyfish. On the second dive, we drift through jagged lava tubes and beneath stunning archways, encountering the occasional green turtle, toothy eel or big school of fish.
“Like an underwater, ancient, abandoned civilization” is how my divemaster describes it.
Back on the surface, we take a little joyride around Lehua. As we circumnavigate, a group of spinner dolphins begins leaping in our wake, and graceful booby birds soar over the boat. Waves crash against the cone-shaped island, and white water explodes around the base, making a loud but soothing whoosh. The captain slows the boat as we approach a formation dubbed Keyhole Cave, a narrow opening between two rocks, with a bridge at the top. Sometimes it’s possible to get closer, he tells me, but the conditions are a bit dicey.
During lunch, divers compare notes on what they’ve seen beneath the water. Despite my frequent glances over at Niihau, no signs of life appear. The inhabitants are sometimes spotted at the beach gathering Kahelelani shells, a divemaster tells me, but not today.
I find myself idly considering what might happen if I were to get separated from the group and wash up on the island. It’s not something I’m seriously considering, of course. My curiosity about Niihau will have to go unquenched, this time, though the consolation prize is pretty remarkable.
At the start of my third dive, I find a monk seal resting on the bottom. It looks so relaxed, so at home in this strange and isolated place. For now, I decide, that’s probably the most important thing I need to know about Niihau.