Sunday, September 19, 2010

Samba Time at the North Country Fair

Posted By on Sun, Sep 19, 2010 at 1:05 PM

A couple of samba dance troupes combined, a bunch of drummers led by Jesse Jonathan, a North Country Fair tradition. The rain held off for most of the time as they circled the Arcata Plaza.

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Friday, September 17, 2010

County Takes Measures to Reduce Airport Woes

Posted By on Fri, Sep 17, 2010 at 10:27 AM

busA month after a long-planned airport construction project began -- a project that has inconvenienced countless local travelers whose flights have been delayed, redirected or canceled outright -- backup measures have finally been provided.

County Supervisor Mark Lovelace yesterday evening sent an e-mail to concerned community members updating them on measures being taken by county officials and airline personnel to alleviate the travel headaches at the Arcata-Eureka Airport (ACV). The supervisor's e-mail reads as follows:

I have been working with our Airport Manager and our Director of Public Works to do anything and everything we can to improve this situation. ... Here is a short list of actions we have taken since Monday morning:

* Provided a regular daily shuttle bus service between ACV and SFO and a stand-by shuttle for passengers diverted to Redding

* Obtained assurances from United and the other carriers that they will provide waivers and refunds for passengers whose flights were cancelled

* Posted an electronic sign board at the airport entrance warning travellers to expect flight delays

* Posted notices throughout the ACV terminal informing people of the problem and advising them of options

* Posted information prominently on the County's aviation website, www.co.humboldt.ca.us/aviation, including external links to flight information websites (thanks to all who have provided links!)

* Provided this information and notices to airlines and airports that serve ACV, so that they can inform travellers in other locations

* Recorded radio PSAs for broadcast (thanks to Lost Coast Communications, and to those who forwarded the information!)

* Circulated information by TV, radio, newspaper, e-mail, Facebook, blogs and other means

* Made advance arrangements with the FAA to be on site to fly a test approach of the ILS system as soon as the EMAS project is completed (necessary before they will allow us to turn the system back on)

* Confirmed that this project remains on schedule for completion on September 24th.

I know that many, if not all, of these are things that could have and should have been done in advance of the project. This was a long-planned project and the potential problems were certainly foreseeable. However, the most important task right now is to do whatever we can to mitigate the problems for the airport's customers while we finish the EMAS project. When this project is finished and the current emergency is resolved, we will then have time to examine what went wrong and take steps to ensure that this kind of thing doesn't happen again.

Not long after Lovelace's e-mail, Airports Manager Jacquelyn Hulsey issued the following press release:

If the fog returns, there is a significant chance that incoming flights may be redirected, delayed or canceled. Should the fog return, the Aviation Division has coordinated with the airlines to provide alternate passenger transportation.

Based on airline recommendations, a bus will be staged at the Arcata/Eureka (ACV) Airport each morning to assist passengers if alternate transportation is needed. The bus will depart ACV at 9:00 AM for the San Francisco Airport (SFO), then [depart] at approximately 3:30 PM with passengers from SFO. They will arrive at ACV Terminal around 11:00 PM. This will be a daily routine/schedule until the ILS is back in service.

Also, the Aviation Division has coordinated a similar plan for passengers connecting through Redding Airport. However, this will be an on-call service though the Horizon Station at Redding based on their passenger needs... rather than a set time.

This final phase of the EMAS block installation is scheduled to be completed no later than September 24, 2010.

For further project information, contact the Aviation website above or 707-839-5401 between 8-5, M-F

For ticket information on cancelled flights, contact your air carrier at:

* Horizon/Alaska Airline: 800-241-6522
* United Express/United Airline: 800-547-9308

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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Crowdsourcing the Weed Market

Posted By on Wed, Sep 15, 2010 at 4:34 PM

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You ever read or watch a news story in which they mention the "street value" of some marijuana bust and think to yourself, "That doesn't sound right"? Of course you have. And so have the guys behind priceofweed.com, a website and blog that's compiling and reporting market data on marijuana sales from all over the world.

Submissions are rolling in rapidly as the site has been covered by CBS NewsBusiness Insider, Seattle Weekly and others. Visitors to the site are invited to report the particulars of their most recent buy, including location, price and even quality of the bud. The Journal reached the site's creators via e-mail. Here's what they said:

Our names are Cory and Andy. We're Web developers and Internet entrepreneurs. We're from Toronto, Ontario Canada, and we just finished college. PriceOfWeed was born out of a personal curiosity; I was watching a National Geographic documentary about marijuana prices, and they threw out some numbers that didn't sound too practical. I realized that since it was a black market, nobody was sharing information, so there was no real way of validating price estimates.

We whipped the site together and posted it on Reddit and HackerNews, which [generated] a really great response. Once we had enough data, we expanded some of our features and added a Googlemaps visualization. From there, it took off on its own, getting covered on Time.com, CBSnews.com, Gawker, Business Insider, and we just did a phone interview with a reporter for ABC news. We plan on continuing to build out useful/informative features; we already have a social metrics measurement started (getting people to rate the social properties of their areas, such as law enforcement, social acceptance, etc.).

It'll be interesting to watch how these data are affected should Prop 19 pass in November. The latest price in California is just over $365 for an ounce of high-quality. Sound right?

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Cash Crop: Coming Soon

Posted By on Wed, Sep 15, 2010 at 2:43 PM

Coming soon to a movie theater near you, Cash Crop, a film by Adam Ross about what he figures is America's No. 1 cash crop. Where else would they shoot it but in the fabled Emerald Triangle. Yes, he borrowed the title from Ray Raphael's book, but Ray's in the movie, so it must be alright with him. Opening Friday, Sept. 24, at the Minor in Arcata.

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Sunday, September 12, 2010

Bat-N-Rouge redux

Posted By on Sun, Sep 12, 2010 at 4:54 PM

  Local politicos and businessfolk came out to the Arcata Ball Park Firday night cross-dressed in their finest for Bat-N-Rouge, a benefit for the Arcata Ridge Trail Project put together by the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.
The Backwood Babes took on the Trail Tramps, and we can't say for certain if either side won fair and square (cheating was encouraged) - in fact the score hardly seemed to matter.  

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Want more? Lots more pics here.

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Friday, September 10, 2010

Anger Grows Over Airport Woes

Posted By on Fri, Sep 10, 2010 at 4:29 PM

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Delays and cancellations at the Arcata-Eureka Airport (ACV) have caused a community uproar in recent weeks as construction work has taken a key piece of navigation equipment offline. This interruption of service to the airport's instrument landing system (ILS), which helps incoming pilots navigate in low-visibility conditions, has long been foreseen, but angry travelers, armed with horror stories, are arguing that neither airport personnel nor commercial carriers are doing enough to inform travelers of conditions. Late this afternoon, however, United Express agreed to issue refunds to passengers whose flights were canceled. Read on.

The impacts of the delays and cancellations have been widespread, forcing many travelers to rent cars or seek alternate modes of transportation at their own expense. A Facebook page called ACV Airport Blues has been created as an informal gathering spot for sharing information and comparing tales.

Zuzka Sabata, community coordinator for the Dell'Arte theatre company, said in a phone interview today that she's had firsthand experience with such headaches and has heard countless similar stories in recent weeks. She feels that attributing the problems to weather is inaccurate. "It's quite obvious that airlines are taking advantage of the situation -- not giving people information and not copping to the fact that it's not the weather, it's the equipment," Sabata said. "They're relinquishing responsibility." In preparation for an east coast tour, Dell'Arte recently elected to ship costumes and props via FedEx -- at an increased cost -- rather than risk a delay or cancellation at the local airport.

 

County Supervisor Mark Lovelace said he sympathizes with these woes. "It's a tremendously frustrating situation, especially for someone stranded at one end or the other" Lovelace said when reached for comment this afternoon. The Board of Supervisors has been receiving a large number of phone calls and e-mails, particularly in the last few days. And while Lovelace expressed sympathy for stranded travelers, he said that the construction work is a necessary and temporary inconvenience. 

The airport is installing what's known as an Engineered Material Arresting System, or EMAS, an emergency measure designed to stop a plane from overrunning the runway in much the same manner as runaway truck ramps can rescue semi drivers on steep downhill grades. This project, which was required by the FAA, should allow more service from regional jets once it's completed, Lovelace said. 

While individual experiences are certainly frustrating, Lovelace said that the scope of the problem has been overblown. Of the 481 flights scheduled from Aug. 1 through Sept. 9, 408 have landed sooner or later, according to information provided to the BOS from County Airports Manager Jacquelyn Hulsey. And of the 73 flights that didn't land, only 55 were canceled due to the ILS being down -- again according to Hulsey.

The airport manager promised to send the Journal information by e-mail no later than 4 p.m. today, yet nothing had arrived by 4:30 p.m. Hulsey did, however, e-mail Lovelace late this afternoon to inform him that United Express has agreed to issue full refunds to customers whose flights were cancelled. Lovelace said it's his understanding that other airlines have agreed to do the same thing. It's unclear how or if this applies to passengers whose flights were redirected, Lovelace said, and he added that affected customers should contact the airline (United, for example) and not the carrier (Horizon Air, say).

Sabata gives some of the blame to the county, saying officials should be doing more to inform travelers. "The thing that really shocked me is that there is no information whatsoever on the county website about the construction or  the rampant delays and cancellations," she said. "It should be in bold letters across the top or on a sign at the airport. It seems like a real failure of responsibility that that information isn't available."

Bill Davidson, a local pilot and member of the county's Aviation Advisory Committee, said the construction work was poorly planned and that many of these delays and cancellations could have been avoided. During his own flights in and out of ACV recently, Davidson has observed conditions that in his estimation would not preclude the use of ILS equipment. "There's no reason ILS can't be up and running when there's no construction equipment in the way," he said. Davidson also suggested that much of the construction work, which entails surface grade changes to the primary runway, could be performed at night, thereby minimizing the impact to travelers. And the work shouldn't have been done at this time of year since fog is often most prevalent in the fall, Davidson added.

Lovelace countered that the work was necessary, and the rainy season would be impossible. He agreed with complaints that more information should be given to travelers but said very few people check the county website when they're preparing to travel. Instead, he suggested, the airlines and online ticket agents like Expedia.com should make an effort to notify travelers of potential delays. 

The ILS is scheduled to be shut down through at least September 24.

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Sara Bareilles: home for the holidays, again

Posted By on Fri, Sep 10, 2010 at 2:08 PM

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An announcement just came in from CenterArts: They're presenting a concert by Sara Bareilles on Friday, Dec. 17  in HSU's Van Duzer Theatre. As you may recall, Sara comes at holiday time most years to visit with the folks -- and sing for the hometown audience.

From the press release:

Eureka native Sara Bareilles is a singer, songwriter and pianist who has gone on to big things. She is perhaps best known for her mega-hit single "Love Song" which broke out in 2005 as a free download on iTunes, hit the No. 1 spot on Billboard's Pop 100 chart in 2007, and was certified double-platinum in 2008. Don't miss her special Humboldt County homecoming show at CenterArts as she tours in support of her acclaimed follow up release Kaleidoscope Heart.

Tickets will be available on Sept. 20, at the Works in Arcata and Eureka, University Ticket Office at HSU or at humboldt.edu/centerarts.

This was a big week for Sara. Kaleidoscope Heart was released Sept. 6. It's on the front page of ITunes right now. She sang on The Today Show and Regis & Kelly earlier in the week and on NPR's World Cafe today.

Fair warning: Her local show will likely sell out almost immediately.

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Meanwhile, at Times-standard.com...

Posted By on Fri, Sep 10, 2010 at 10:30 AM

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Thursday, September 9, 2010

HSU Natural History Museum Rescued

Posted By on Thu, Sep 9, 2010 at 1:35 PM

HSU Natural History MuseumHumboldt State University today announced that its Natural History Museum will re-open to the public next week. The museum was closed to the general public just over a year ago as a result of drastic state cuts to education funding. (School children were still admitted to the facility.)

The closure was expected to be permanent despite public outcry and a concerted attempt to find alternative financing. Such financing has evidently been secured thanks to grants from the California Department of Education and California State University's future science and mathematics teacher program, as well as financial help from museum supporters. 

HSU's press release follows the break.

Humboldt State University's Natural History Museum will re-open to the public next week with a broader academic mission and solid financial backing from recent grants.

Meeting additional student needs in the K-12 arena, the Museum is reinforcing its educational mission through math and science teacher preparation. The facility remained open to school children but closed to other visitors over the past year because of state budget cuts.

Key officials say the Museum will build on the donor and community volunteer strengths it developed in the last two decades, even as it expands into new areas.

The revamped facility will be managed by the Humboldt Science and Mathematics Center/Redwood Science Project, a grant-funded campus organization focused primarily on science and mathematics education and future teacher programs. The center administered the grants that kept the Museum open for class visits last year, and has identified several sources of new funding.

The Museum, located at 1315 G street in Arcata, was closed to the public in August 2009 as HSU struggled to deal with a massive $7.2 million state budget cut. It will re-open to the public on Tuesday, Sept. 14. A grand opening event is planned for Oct. 9.

Humboldt State Professor Jeffrey White, the center's director, outlined the new revenue sources, including grant funding and commitments for individual donations. They include backing from the California Department of Education, California State University's future science and mathematics teacher program and contributions from the Museum's long-standing and new supporters.

The funds will help re-establish the Museum, open it to the general public and expand offerings for classes. The Museum will now be tied more closely to Humboldt State's educational programs, offering current and future teachers opportunities to heighten student interest in science.

"Many committed individuals helped make the new financial arrangements possible," White said. "Although the HSMC has already obtained this grant funding to help with the re-opening," he added, "we will still need a lot of support from the public to make the new management plan viable. If you've previously pledged to help the museum, you will hear from us again shortly."

The new administrative plan means the Museum will be able to forgo the salary of a director. White and others from the Redwood Science Project will oversee the Museum, and Project member Julie Van Sickle is the interim manager. The search for a permanent manager, which will be a part-time position, will begin soon.

The new arrangement builds on a proposal outlined last year by the facility's advisory board and the North Coast Natural History Museum Association. The leadership and many members of these groups were deeply involved in the discussions, and have pledged to support the new and improved Museum, White said.

"We are so happy the Museum is re-opening to the public and we are fully behind the effort of the Redwood Science Project," said Karen Reiss, association board chair.
"Everyone involved in this deserves a lot of credit," said HSU Provost Robert Snyder.

"All came together to back something they cared about and that they thought was important. Jeffrey White and his team deserve special thanks, not only for the fresh grant funding they secured, but also for reinforcing the Museum's crucial links to our academic programs in math and science, connections that build on the Museum's highly successful student intern program. We are also grateful to the scores of steadfast Museum volunteers from all over the area. Developing this plan and getting the grants was a challenge, and Jeffrey and his colleagues were able to pull it off with the Museum volunteers' dedication and support."

Details about membership costs and benefits are still being worked out. Memberships active at the time of the museum's closure to the public in August, 2009, will be honored.

The museum will be open to the general public Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Settlement Announced in Skilled Health Care Case

Posted By on Wed, Sep 8, 2010 at 3:18 PM

The Humboldt County District Attorney's Office has just announced a settlement in the omnibus lawsuit against nursing home operator Skilled Health Care. In addition to payments to members of the class-action lawsuit against the company, which was found guilty of maintaining illegally low levels of staffing at their facilities, prosecutors in the case will be renumerated for prosecuting the case.

Last year, the Journal published local writer Carol Harrison's in-depth investigation into the problems at Skilled Health Care.

Press release from the District Attorney's Office follows:

The Humboldt County District Attorney's Office announced a negotiated settlement in the People's lawsuit against Skilled Healthcare Group, et al. The settlement agreements, along with all relevant documents associated with them, were provided to the Court earlier this morning for review and approval. The negotiated settlement is set before Superior Court Judge Watson for preliminary approval on Friday, September 10, 2010. A hearing to consider final approval of the negotiated settlement will be scheduled during Friday's hearing. The settlement was reached after extensive negotiations, including mediation sessions before Judge Weinstein (Ret.) and his JAMS mediation team, and the tireless efforts of all the parties to the related actions.

The negotiated settlement provides for an injunction against the defendants with skilled nursing facilities that will ensure that nursing staff levels at such facilities meet or exceed the minimum staffing levels required by California law. The injunction provides for a court approved auditor to monitor the defendants' compliance with the injunction. The People are pleased with the injunction as it provides for a means to monitor the defendants' compliance with the injunction, which, in turn, provides assurance that staffing levels at the defendants' skilled nursing facilities will meet the minimum levels required by California law.

The negotiated settlement also provides for restitution and/or payment to defendants' residents that resided in the defendants' skilled nursing facilities during the class period. Payments to the residents will take place through a claims process administered by Gilardi & Company, LLC.

In addition, the negotiated settlement provides, after payment to class members, a total possible payment for public prosecutors of up to $5 million dollars. The negotiated settlement provides, unless certain conditions of the settlement agreements are not satisfied, for payment of up to $2 million to Humboldt County, $500,000 to the California Attorney General's Office, $500,000 to the California District Attorney's Association, $400,000 to Los Angeles County, $400,000 to Orange County, $400,000 to Fresno County, $400,000 to Riverside County, and $400,000 to Santa Barbara County.

The People's case was handled by Humboldt County District Attorney Paul Gallegos, who stated that: "the settlement is a just and an appropriate resolution for all parties as it provides assurances of specific daily nurse staffing levels in the defendants' skilled nursing facilities where many of California's elderly citizens receive nursing care, the defendant's residents, provides compensation to the class members, provides oversight and monitoring of the defendants' nurse staffing levels, provides for future protection of residents in defendants' skilled nursing facilities.

The Humboldt County District Attorney's Office was an intervenor in the action that was originally filed by the law offices of Janssen, Malloy, Needham, Reinholtsen, Crowley & Griego, the Law Offices of Michael D. Thamer, and Christopher Healy and Aaron Winn from Luce, Forward, Hamilton & Scripps, LLP. The District Attorney thanked those attorneys for their collaboration, cooperation and hard work stating that: "without the skills, expertise, collaboration, cooperation and hard work of each and every one of those law firms and the attorneys and staff in them, the People would not have been able to accomplish their goals of obtaining a meaningful injunction, bringing restitution and/or compensation to the class members, and obtaining an appropriate resolution for all parties that provides the enforcement of laws intended to protect the elderly throughout the state of California." The Humboldt County District Attorney stated further that "the more than four years of labor, six months of trial and weeks of negotiations of the plaintiff's attorneys, the District Attorney staff and attorneys, the sacrifice of residents and employees who testified, and the jurors who sacrificed more than six months of their lives to decide this important matter for elderly Californian's was a moving testimony to the care and commitment of the community and the individuals in it to ensure higher daily nurse staffing levels in skilled nursing facilities where many elderly Californians reside." The Humboldt County District Attorney added a special thanks to Mrs. Vilchinsky and her family and extended his sincere gratitude for her assistance in making these protections for elderly people in Humboldt, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, Fresno and Santa Barbara Counties possible.

Defendants' skilled nursing facilities located in Humboldt County include: Granada Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center, LLC; Eureka Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center, LLC; Pacific Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center, LLC; Seaview Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center, LLC; and St. Luke Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center, LLC.

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