Jan. 6, 2005
LOCAL SOLDIER GETS
PURPLE HEART: A teenage soldier from Willow Creek is expected
home this week after she was wounded in an attack by a suicide
bomber in Mosul, Iraq. Amanda Mohon, 19, an Arcata High graduate
in the 25th Infantry Division of the Army, received a Purple
Heart last week after she was injured Dec. 21. Mohon suffered
third and second degree burns on her hands and face and was cut
on the leg by shrapnel after a bomb tore through a dining tent
she was in. Mohon's mother, Dana, said that her daughter was
taken to a military hospital in Germany before she arrived at
Brooke Army Medical Center in Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio,
Texas. On Christmas Eve, the Mohons went to Texas to see Amanda.
Dana Mohon said Tuesday that that the second-degree burns on
Amanda's face are healing well, as are the third degree burns
on her hand, which will likely leave some scars. Amanda will
be home for a month before returning to the Brooke Army Medical
Center for more treatment. After that, she will visit the hospital
every three months. Dana Mohon said that Amanda will likely not
go back to Iraq because doctors said that her wounds must be
well-guarded from the sun with bandages and sunscreen for at
least a year. Meanwhile, Amanda's father, John, who is in the
National Guard, will be sent to Egypt on Jan. 10. Another local
soldier, U.S. Army Spc. Donald Arminio, 24, of Fortuna was also
in the mess tent when the attack occurred, but was not injured,
according to his father, John Arminio.
NEW EUREKA COMMISSION
CONTROVERSY: Just before Christmas,
the Eureka City Council rejected Mayor Peter La Vallee's first
nomination to the city's Planning Commission -- Xandra Manns,
formerly a professional planner in the Bay Area -- at least in
part because her membership in the Green Party marked her as
too radical for the city. On Tuesday night, after the Journal
went to press, the council was scheduled to approve or disapprove
La Vallee's second choice: Robert Fasic, the owner of southern
Humboldt's Heartwood Institute and a former attorney who, while
living in Chicago, had a specialty in land-use issues. But Fasic,
too, has inspired some dissent. On Monday, Eureka gadfly Leo
Sears wrote a letter to members of the City Council protesting
Fasic's appointment. Sears noted that on its Web site Heartwood
describes itself as a "holistic learning community with
core values such as: a holistic worldview, ecological balance,
planetary healing, spiritual paths, intuition and feelings and
a like minded community." Sears appeared alarmed: "While
there is absolutely nothing wrong with people holding these views,"
he wrote, "they are hardly those of the mainstream business
community that needs to be represented on the Planning Commission."
by JUDY HODGSON
Vic and Carol Aubin of Arcata are in e-mail contact with their son in Iraq regularly. Once in a while he will call, like he did on Carol's birthday, Dec. 7.
"Just before he hung up, Carol asked him if there was anything he really needed," Vic Aubin recalled earlier this week. "He hesitated at first and then said, `As a matter of fact, yes. I need warm clothes and shoes for kids. All sizes -- toddlers, too. It's really getting cold over here. It's below 30 at night.'"
That conversation launched a private effort by a single soldier -- 1st Lt. Wade Aubin -- and his family to supply direct aid to families in one war-ravaged neighborhood in Baghdad.
Wade Aubin graduated from Arcata High School in 1988, served in the first Gulf War and returned to graduate from Humboldt State University in 1997 with a degree in geology. He was in graduate school at Washington State University and serving in the reserves when his National Guard unit was called up in 2003. They were deployed to Baghdad to serve in combat and to help rebuild the city of 6 million. The unit mostly works on infrastructure -- restoring water and power and rebuilding schools and public buildings. Wade is the battalion's pubic affairs officer and liaison to the impoverished neighborhood of Diyala. He meets regularly with neighborhood councils of Iraqis, mostly Shiites.
"These people have nothing. They are the majority [in Baghdad], but under Saddam and the Sunnis, they were extremely impoverished," Vic Aubin said.
Carol and Vic Aubin are collecting new or "gently-used" clean clothes and shoes, new children's underwear (packaged), and sewing supplies -- fabric, needles, thread, scissors. The collection points include the Sunny Brae Animal Clinic, where Carol works; Espresso 101 Coffee in the Valley West Shopping Center, Arcata; and the Fieldbrook Market. (Vic Aubin recently retired after teaching for 30 years at Fieldbrook Elementary School.)
"We really need kids' shoes, and sewing supplies," he said.
Shipping is a major issue -- and expensive, Aubin added.
"We have to act quickly. The cut-off date is Friday, Jan. 14." On that day material collected will be boxed and shipped to a APO address in New Jersey, and the military will forward the boxes to Baghdad within 10 days, Aubin said. It has to be there before Jan. 31 because the Guard battalion is scheduled to be moved in early February. They do not yet know where their next assignment is.
"Besides, it's cold. These are things that are needed now."
The Aubins have begun to collect money to pay for shipping and to buy new underwear before the final shipment goes out. They are asking that checks be made payable to Carol Aubin, c/o Sunny Brae Animal Clinic, 900 Buttermilk Lane, Arcata, 95521.
Photo above: Alia, Wade Aubin and Rawaa. Baghdad, May 8, 2004.
by EMILY GURNON
Zachary Gibson and his girlfriend were swimming with a small tour group near a rocky cove off the coast of Phuket, Thailand, on Dec. 26 when their guides frantically waved to them.
"They said, `Everybody back in the boat!'" recalled the 27-year-old McKinleyville resident, who graduated from Humboldt State University in 2003. "We thought it was kind of weird. We didn't know what was going on."
Their powerful speedboat, equipped with three outboard motors, headed out of the cove, then became immobilized -- and the placid turquoise waters got turgid and dirty-looking, Gibson said.
"All of a sudden the boat wouldn't go anywhere, and the three engines were full-throttle. This incredible current just rushed in," he said. "The crew started throwing life jackets at us -- they were kind of freaking out."
Gibson and his girlfriend, Bren Garrahan, 24, of Happy Camp and the two friends they were vacationing with, survived the disastrous tsunami and earthquake that have left some 150,000 people dead in Thailand, Sri Lanka, India, Indonesia and surrounding areas.
Another local man was not so fortunate; Brian King, 59, a salmon fisherman from McKinleyville, died when the tsunami crashed into the seaside hut he was vacationing in on Phuket, according to press reports.
Gibson, who works for the Forest Service doing seasonal trail maintenance in Happy Camp, arrived in San Jose on Tuesday, where his mother, Mary Jane Nesbitt of Willow Glen, picked him up at the airport.
He told the Journal that he and Garrahan, who has been teaching English in Japan, decided to vacation in Thailand over the holidays. On their third day on Phuket, they headed out on the speed boat toward Phi Phi Island, where they had planned to go snorkeling.
About an hour off the coast of Phuket, and just five or 10 minutes from Phi Phi, the group stopped to go swimming in the cove, a rocky outcropping in the middle of the ocean. As it turned out, it was the best possible place to be: both Phuket and Phi Phi were devastated.
"We were real lucky because we were on our way to the island [of Phi Phi] where hundreds of people died," Gibson said. The boat operators did not tell their clients what was happening; they had gotten a call on the boat, but didn't want the others to panic, Gibson said. It wasn't until they got back to Phuket that they began to realize the extent of the disaster.
"There were a lot of overturned boats, boats washed ashore," he said. The tour guides immediately rushed the group to the center of the island, where people were gathering.
"There were hundreds and hundreds of people there. That's where we saw people who were bloody and bandaged up. That's when it hit us that something real big had gone down."
Gibson said they were able to get a hold of their parents within a day or so -- but not before his step-father, David Butcher, had gotten some bogus information from a Phuket hospital, in response to an e-mail inquiry, that Gibson had lost a leg.
The experience has left him feeling very lucky to be alive. "I kind of feel like I might have a karmic debt to fill," Gibson said. "I don't think I would have been too happy if it had been my time."
He said he plans to head back to Humboldt County in a couple of weeks. "I'm just gonna get back to work and get on with my life. What else can you do?"
by HANK SIMS
Redcrest resident Christine Rising spent much of December holed up in her house or her barn -- anywhere she could best hide from the thump-thump of helicopters carrying logs from a timber harvest site near her home.
To most people, a passing helicopter is, at worst, a noisy annoyance. But for Rising -- who has a rare, strange medical history -- the loud machines are a source of severe physical trauma.
"It was the most miserable holidays I've ever had in my entire life," she said.
Now that the new year has come, Rising, 51, wants to know why the Pacific Lumber Co. -- owner of much of the timber land in the vicinity of her Larabee Creek Road home -- has apparently abandoned its long-standing recognition of her unique condition.
In the late 1970s, Rising received an experimental treatment for loss of hearing. Doctors implanted a tiny prosthetic metal bone in her inner ear. Her hearing was restored, but additional complications developed; loud noises or vibrations now can cause spells of intense dizziness, vertigo and ruptured eardrums. She relocated to what she thought was a tranquil corner of Humboldt County in the mid-`80s in order to escape these side-effects.
But Rising said that tranquility was tough to come by this year. She said that helicopters working Palco timber harvests throughout 2004 were close enough to her to cause a severe physical reaction. The problem reached a peak in December, when operations were closest to her home.
In the past, Palco and its subcontractor, Portland-based Columbia Helicopters, had altered flight paths in their timber harvest plans in order to accommodate Rising's condition. When that was not possible, Palco paid to have her put up in a Eureka hotel when helicopters were working the area.
Palco spokesperson Erin Dunn said that the company declined to comment on the issue. MAXXAM attorney Erik A. Eriksson, with whom Rising has been in frequent contact, also declined to comment.
On Aug. 16, Dr. Matthew Ellison, an Arcata ear specialist, wrote a letter to Pacific Lumber testifying to Rising's unique medical problems. He told them that the tiny titanium prosthesis in Rising's ear is extremely sensitive to vibration, and that at times his patient experiences vertigo and even blackouts when the device is stimulated by loud noise.
"I am writing this letter primarily to reinforce to Pacific Lumber Co. that this is a real physiological and anatomical problem," Ellison wrote. "Although certainly given the decades of this problem there is some psychological component, the nidus and origin is that of a true physical problem."
On Aug. 23, Eriksson wrote back, saying that it was his understanding that there was no helicopter activity near enough to Rising's home to cause the problems she was describing.
"As you are aware, in the past we have defrayed your various costs to move and stay away from your home, in conjunction with helicopter yarding much closer to your home," he wrote. "However, these measures have not resolved the issue."
At the beginning of December, Eriksson again wrote Rising to notify her that Columbia would be flying near her home, but did not offer to pay her relocation expenses.
Throughout the summer, Rising was in touch with Rep. Mike Thompson's office, the Department of Forestry and the Federal Aviation Administration in an effort to seek relief. On Dec. 10, following a telephone conversation with her, FAA engineer Sandy Liu -- an administration policy analyst specializing in noise issues -- asked inspectors at the regional office in Southern California to investigate her claims.
"I just wanted to follow up and see what our agency can do," Liu said. "The issue of safety is of concern to us."
Liu said that while he could not vouch for the every specific of Rising's claims, he did note that federal regulations stipulate that helicopters must either stay 500 feet above the surface of the ground or operate "without hazard to persons or property on the surface."
Rising claims that helicopters have been flying much lower than 500 feet near her home. Liu said that if that is the case, the company would appear to be in violation, especially since it has recognized her condition in the past.
On Monday, Rising said that the helicopter activity near her home had quieted down enough to give her some peace of mind. She said that she is weighing her options -- she might look into selling her home, or even undergo surgery to have the prosthesis removed, even though her doctors have said that such a procedure would run the risk of deafening her entirely.
She said that she is now trying to catch up on some of the chores that had been left undone during the period when the helicopters were closest to her home, and wondering what she will do if they come back.
"It's like being terrified every moment, because you don't know when they're going to come," she said. "Fight or flight -- I don't know."
The Eureka Reporter, an online weekly newspaper that now publishes and distributes 4,000 print copies per week, has a new publisher, Judi Pollace. She began her career 30 years ago with the Times-Standard as a sales representative and later became advertising director. After leaving the Times-Standard, Pollace held a number of top management posts as publisher, including her latest at the helm of a group of Lake County newspapers also owned by MediaNews, owner of the Times-Standard.
The Eureka Reporter is owned by Eureka businessman Rob Arkley. Arkley told the Journal Tuesday, "I have no involvement in the [day-to-day] operations of the Reporter other than I was involved with this hire." He said the decision about when to increase the newspaper's frequency will be made by Pollace and Managing Editor Glenn Simmons, the former publisher. "The decision will be made soon," Arkley said. Will he increase to three times per week? "I can't say. We may go directly to seven," which will be a direct challenge to the local daily. "The Times-Standard needs competition. I believe competition between the Times-Standard and the Eureka Reporter will be good for this community." For Pollace, it will be a homecoming. Her daughter works for Arkley's Security National Servicing Corp. in Eureka.
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