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Sept. 23, 2004

The Weekly Wrap

Breast Health Project responds to growing need


 T H E  W E E K L Y  W R A P

ETHICS, SHMETHICS: At the recommendation of the Grand Jury, the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday directed county staff to develop a draft code of ethics that would help guide the conduct of elected officials. The vote was 4-1, with Supervisor Roger Rodoni dissenting. "A code of ethics, as far as I'm concerned, is not worth the paper it's written on," Rodoni said. "We go by the law. When we get away from that, I think we're wandering aimlessly." In a short speech, the supervisor spoke disparagingly of the Grand Jury's treatment of accused Fortuna City Councilmember Debi August, but did not mention his own role in the drafting of the Grand Jury's recommendation: His vote last year against outside legal help for the District Attorney's lawsuit against the Pacific Lumber Co., which he made despite the fact that he leases a 9,000-acre ranch from the company for $350 per month, was cited by the Grand Jury in arguing for the need for ethics codes. Several local city governments have also responded to the Grand Jury's recommendation. Eureka has said it will consider the matter, while Blue Lake and Ferndale have both gone on record as saying they will not.

SORRY, DEBI: Fortuna City Attorney David Tranberg told the City Council on Monday that no, the city could not help pay for Councilmember Debi August's legal costs. The council had asked Tranberg last week if some public funds might be available. August was accused by the Grand Jury of conflict of interest for representing a developer before the city's Planning Commission. Her case is pending in civil court.

STUDENTS TO PROTEST SINGER: Humboldt State students are organizing a protest against a reggae singer who uses homophobic references in his music. Capleton, as he is known, has been dubbed as a "reggae superstar" by HSU Associated Students, the sponsors of the concert. The singer has received heat lately for his lyrics that refer to burning and murdering gays, and was recently dropped from the lineup of a reggae festival in San Francisco because of the controversy. (His song, "Bun Out Di Chi Chi," for instance, translates as "burn out the queer.") The concert is scheduled to take place at 9 p.m. in HSU's Kate Buchanan Room, on Friday, Oct. 1.

SHEETS SUES: Gloria Albin Sheets, the former deputy district attorney who ran as a replacement candidate in the Paul Gallegos recall attempt last spring, has filed a lawsuit against the DA's office. In the suit, Albin Sheets alleges that she was a victim of discrimination -- she said she was laid off from her job shortly after filing a Workers' Compensation claim on injuries she says she received on the job. Reached at her home Tuesday, Albin Sheets declined to comment on the specifics of the case. "I think it's unprofessional and unethical to try cases in the press," she said. "It's something that has gone on way too much since Gallegos took office." Late last month, DA Investigator Christine Cook filed a suit against the office alleging racial and sexual discrimination.

SANTANA CONVICTED: Eureka resident Abraham Dejesus Santana, 31, pleaded guilty Sept. 15 to the murder of his wife, Sandra Lynn Santana, in April. Judge Christopher Wilson gave Santana a sentence of 26 years to life. Sandra Santana, who was pregnant at the time of her death, was a mother of three small children, all of whom were left alone with their mother's lifeless body for several hours before relatives discovered what had taken place.

NEW CONSERVANCY FORMED: Activists from local environmental groups announced last week that they are forming a new nonprofit -- the Siskiyou Land Conservancy -- to aid in the effort to preserve land in Humboldt, Del Norte, Siskiyou and Trinity counties. Greg King, executive director of the Smith River Project and the new conservancy's president, said that the organization is designed to complement existing groups, such as the North Coast Regional Land Trust, by providing a cheaper and more streamlined alternative for property owners who wish to see their lands protected. "We hope to raise private and foundation money, and we're going to rely on volunteers for our workload," he said.

LOG ON, FIND FIDO: The Humboldt County Animal Shelter in McKinleyville launched a new Web site this week to help speed the process of reuniting lost pets with owners and finding homes for abandoned animals. On, potential owners can peruse the photos of adoptable cats and dogs, and owners of missing pets can look over the found-animal section of the site. If no luck is had locating either the perfect pooch or a missing pet, the user can enter the animal's breed, size, color, and age into the database. When a match is found, an e-mail will be sent to the owner. Animal Control Officer Steve Knight said that the new online system has increased the animal adoption and retrieval rate of other facilities three- to four-fold. The McKinleyville shelter is the most recent addition to the search site, which includes facilities from Sacramento, Sonoma County and Mendocino County. Animals at the McKinleyville site are currently held in temporary outdoor kennels while the new shelter is under construction.

DUDE, LOCK YOUR LOCKER: Close to a pound of marijuana was found in the locker of a 15-year-old student at McKinleyville High School on Monday, the Sheriff's Department reported. McKinleyville High's principal, David Lonn, who was alerted by a custodian that a locker was unlocked, discovered the pot. Lonn said he opened the locker to make sure nothing was missing and found six bags of marijuana, weighing a total of 0.83 pounds. The Humboldt County Sheriff's Department said that the street value of a pound of marijuana can be worth as much as $3,500, but that price is dependent upon the quality of the drug. Lonn said that the student's stash did not appear to be of good quality, consisting mainly of marijuana leaves that looked similar to "bags of green tea." The student was arrested, cited for possession and intent to sell marijuana and was released to his or her parents. Lonn declined to say whether or not the student would be expelled.

EXPLOSION WITNESS ARRESTED: A parolee and son of a former mayor who was wanted for questioning following a Fortuna motel explosion was on his way to San Quentin Tuesday after turning himself in to police on Sept. 16. James Nyberg, 33, son of Phil Nyberg -- Fortuna's mayor from 1996-2002 -- was seen leaving the National 9 Inn immediately after the Sept. 11 blast that killed Charles Douthitt, 41, of Fortuna, police said. The younger Nyberg, who was a friend of the deceased man, was arrested on a parole violation. Fortuna police said that he had not been questioned by law enforcement because he was awaiting advice of an attorney. Police said that an "explosive device" was the cause of the blast but declined to release further details.

EUREKA KMART CHANGES HANDS: Eureka's "Big K" Kmart store has a new landlord. Eureka Mart LLC, an Illinois-based company, recently sold the large lot on the south end of Eureka that has been the store's home for the last 15 years to the Sebanc Family Trust. The price for the land was $3.9 million. The sale shouldn't affect operations at the site -- Kmart has a lease on the property that doesn't expire until 2013. Sebanc Family Trust could not be reached for comment.

MORE DEAD BIRDS: Humboldt County Vector Officer Brent Whitener reports that two more dead birds infected by the West Nile virus have been found locally. An infected blue jay was found in north Arcata Aug. 24; a California towhee, a relative of the sparrow, was found at South Fork High in Miranda Aug. 31. While Humboldt has yet to have a horse or a human come down with the virus, California has the most cases nationally with 538, and 15 people have died in the state from the virus, including a Tehama County resident last Tuesday. "It's not just Los Angeles anymore," said Whitener, noting that culex mosquitoes, which carry the virus, make up about 10 percent of the mosquito population. Whitener said the county will continue pursuing "the wily mosquitoes" through selective eradication. The county also requests that citizens finding a dead bird call 877-WNV-BIRD (877-968-2473) to file a report.

PROTESTS CONTINUE: Earth First! activists continue blocking roads and otherwise resisting Pacific Lumber Co.'s attempts to log in the Mattole and Grizzly Creek areas, according to activist Naomi Wagner. An "action training camp" last week brought some 50 activists from places as far as Israel, Brazil and Belgium, Wagner said. Meanwhile, five other activists were in Humboldt County Superior Court on charges stemming from a protest earlier this month in the Fox Camp Gate area of the Mattole, where protesters reportedly clashed with Pacific Lumber employees. Two of the five had their charges dismissed, Wagner said, while two were sentenced to jail time and one is scheduled to go to trial. Pacific Lumber declined to comment on the protests.[men moving tiled trashcan into place on Arcata Plaza]

TRASHY ART: A tiled trash receptacle, the latest public mosaic by Arcata's "Tile Lady," Laurel Skye (see Journal story, "The Tile Lady" Feb. 7, 2002), was put in place last week by Arcata Parks Superintendent Dan Diemer (right) and Parks Department worker Fred Lomeli, at the corner of Ninth and H streets on the Arcata Plaza. Skye, who calls the work "trashy art," said, "It will add a touch of brightness and make a good statement on what is known as kind of a derelict corner." [photo at right]

CONFUSION HILL COPTERS: If the whirring of helicopters above your Southern Humboldt home is making you paranoid, relax. The choppers are part of a construction effort to bypass the habitually hazardous, landslide prone stretch of U.S. Highway 101 at Confusion Hill. Starting Monday and continuing through October, helicopters will bring Caltrans crews to otherwise inaccessible sites along the Eel River to scout out locations for two proposed bridges, according to a Caltrans statement. Confusion Hill has been the source for ongoing rainy-weather traffic troubles, resulting in 10 road closures last winter. The Federal Highway Administration approved $65 million in funding to relocate the 1.5-mile stretch of the highway, construction of which is slated for completion in 2008.

Breast Health Project responds to growing need


For a health advocacy organization, growth is good and bad. Take the Humboldt Community Breast Health Project, for instance. In the seven years since its creation by a handful of women, the grass roots group has burgeoned to include 125 volunteers, moved to a spacious new office across from the Arcata Co-op, hired a part-time director and attained official nonprofit status.


That's the bad part. Breast cancer is the No. 1 diagnosed cancer in Humboldt County, and statistics collected by the state Department of Health Services show Humboldt ranks No. 1 in the state in breast cancer deaths.

"We wish the Breast Health Project could go away," said Julie Ohnemus, M.D., a family practitioner at NorthCountry Clinic in Arcata and breast cancer survivor, who founded the project. "It would be a dream to see something like this fold and not be needed anymore. But we have to deal with reality. It's here, and we need to work with it."

From 2000 through 2002, an average of 27 Humboldt County women died each year of breast cancer, according to the state statistics, the most recent available. Of course, those numbers themselves are low compared to those of other, larger, counties. But considering the size of the population, our numbers put Humboldt in the unenviable position of having the highest age-adjusted mortality rate in the state.

But the situation may not be as dire as it sounds, said Dr. Ann Lindsay, public health officer for Humboldt County.

"The problem [statistically] is that the numbers are small," Lindsay said. A variation of one or two deaths in either direction could change our ranking considerably. "It doesn't mean we don't have to pay attention, but it's not as alarming as it might seem," she said.

The Breast Health Project, and local health care providers, are paying attention.

Humboldt County's breast cancer rate could be due to any number of factors, Ohnemus said. The fact that we live in a rural area may affect the speed at which women seek care. Smoking may play a role. The environment may affect women's health. Hispanic women tend to develop breast cancer earlier in life. And Native Americans may deal differently with the disease; they tend not to talk about their bodies as openly, for instance, Ohnemus said.

"There are some Indian cultures that don't even have a word for cancer," she said. "They're going to enter late into the system and be further into the disease."

Ohnemus herself was diagnosed with breast cancer eight years ago at age 36. While getting part of her treatment in Palo Alto, she discovered that the city had a breast cancer support group and information center that she and others found invaluable. "If I live," she vowed, "I'm going to create the same thing in Humboldt County."

The Breast Health Project thus started around Ohnemus' kitchen table in Westhaven. Its free services now include acting as a clearinghouse for information on breast cancer and breast health, and providing support and advocacy for those newly diagnosed and those living with breast cancer.

Through a grant from the Dallas-based Susan G. Komen Foundation, the group will work with United Indian Health Services at Potawot Village on issues of breast health among Indian women.

The group also got a grant for a research project involving the ways in which women talk to their doctors about breast cancer. In "consultation planning," a process developed at the University of California-San Francisco, trained volunteers meet with patients before a medical appointment and help them define their concerns and questions. A written form with the information is sent to the physician so that he or she can better understand what the patient needs.

And the organization has branched out to offer services to women with gynecologic cancers -- cancers of the uterus, cervix, ovaries, etc.

All of this takes money, of course, and -- since it doesn't charge for services and the demand is considerable -- the group has launched new fund-raising efforts. It is selling "Amazon warrior" earrings by Holly Yashi and, on weekends this month and through October, several local businesses are donating 10 percent of their proceeds to the project.

The Breast Health Project is located at 987 Eighth St. in Arcata, 825-8345 or toll-free at 877-422-4776.




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