Friday, July 31, 2009

Harvest time

Posted By on Fri, Jul 31, 2009 at 1:00 PM

pot leaf logo While dozens of amateur horticulturists supplement their income during Humboldt County's annual trimming of the harvest, a multi-agency law enforcement effort aimed their blades a little closer to the root, eradicating nearly 30,000 marijuana plants in just four days.

CAMP, which I believe stands for Cops Amping Marijuana Prices, joined forces with the Humboldt County Sheriff's Office, the U.S. Marshall's Service and the Drug Task Force to raid outdoor gardens from Hoopa to Blocksburg, raking in 28,400 plants from land owned by the Hoopa Valley Tribe, the U.S. Forest Service, the state of California and private timber companies, according to a sheriff's office press release.

And they're just getting started. "The Campaign Against Marijuana Planting [oh yeah, that's what it stands for] will continue operations in Humboldt County throughout the summer," the release states.

You've been warned.

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Killer algae on the Van Duzen

Posted By on Fri, Jul 31, 2009 at 10:16 AM

The Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services today issued the following warning:


Due to its potential health risks, the Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Environmental Health and the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board, are urging swimmers, boaters, and recreational users to avoid contact with the blue-green algae now blooming on the Van Duzen River in Northern California. Residents and recreational users of the Van Duzen River should use caution or avoid contact with water with visible blooms until further notice.

"A blue-green algae bloom can present a health hazard for those swimming or playing in the river, especially children and pets. We recommend that people stay out of the water where significant algae are present, and keep their dogs out of the river at this time," said Kevin Metcalfe, Consumer Protection Unit Supervisor of the Humboldt County Division of Environmental Health.

A dog that recently died after swimming in the Van Duzen River just below Pamplin Grove Campground was likely poisoned by blue green algae toxins.

We are aware of nine other dog deaths that occurred shortly after contact with fresh water bodies in Humboldt and Mendocino Counties which may have been caused by blue-green algae poisoning since 2001. Five dogs died after swimming in Big Lagoon in 2001, while four dogs died after swimming in the South Fork Eel River in 2002 and 2004. A toxin associated with a type of blue-green algae was found in the stomachs of two of the dogs who swam in the South Fork Eel River. The algae that produce this toxin have been found in water samples taken from the Van Duzen River in the area where the dog swam. The dog died approximately one hour after leaving the water on Sunday, July 26, 2009.

The algal blooms look like green, blue-green, white, or brown foam, scum or mats floating on the water. Recreational exposure to toxic blue-green algae can cause eye irritation, allergic skin rash, mouth ulcers, vomiting, diarrhea, and cold and flu-like symptoms. Accidentally drinking or swallowing large amounts of contaminated water can be extremely dangerous.

The Statewide Guidance on Harmful Algal Blooms recommends the following:

• Avoid wading and swimming in water containing visible blooms or water containing algal scums or mats, which are most often present on the shoreline;

• Take care that pets and livestock do not drink the water or swim through heavy scums or mats, nor lick their fur after going in the water;

• If no algal scums or mats are visible, you should still carefully watch young children and warn them not to swallow the water;

• Do not drink, cook or wash dishes with untreated river water;

• Consume fish only after removing guts and liver, and rinsing fillets in clean drinking water;

• Get medical treatment right away if you think that you, your pet, or your livestock might have been poisoned by blue green algae toxins. Be sure to alert the medical professional to the possible contact with blue green algae.

With proper precautions to avoid water contact, people can still visit the Van Duzen River and enjoy activities such as camping, hiking, biking, canoeing, picnicking or other recreational activities excluding direct contact with the algae bloom scum.


Contact the Humboldt County Division of Environmental Health at (707) 445-6215 or 1-800-963-9241 for more information.

If you have questions about medical treatment, call your doctor. For further information on animal health, contact the State Animal Health Branch at (707) 826-1658.

The following websites provide more detail on blue green algae:

California Department of Public Health:

State Water Resources Control Board:

National Center for Disease Control:

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Thursday, July 30, 2009

St. Joe's nurses fired

Posted By on Thu, Jul 30, 2009 at 5:07 PM

The four St. Joseph Hospital ICU nurses and one clinical supervisor accused of over-sedating patients and ignoring proper medication schedules while maintaining a "party-like atmosphere" during night shifts (see previous post here) have been officially fired, according to Wes Thornton, one of the terminated nurses.

Hospital administrators stated in each termination letter that they "may" still contact the state Board of Registered Nursing, Thornton said -- a statement he interpreted as a threat designed to intimidate. "This [being reported to the BRN] would open a big can of worms for us and involve us in all sorts of hearings and such," Thornton said in an e-mail Thursday afternoon. "They know this and are using this to keep us quiet. For me this works."

According to Thornton, other nurses intend to file grievances with the California Nurses Association.

Meanwhile, St. Joseph Hospital Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Robert Brannigan today issued this memo warning employees about media inquiries into the matter. A copy of the memo was leaked to the Journal anonymously. Of particular note is Brannigan's assertion that the hospital's "commitment to protecting the dignity of each worker remains at the forefront of everything we do," a misstatement, presumably, since one would hope that patient care is at the forefront of their priorities.

Asked whether or not she could confirm that the nurses were indeed fired today, St. Joseph spokesperson Courtney Hunt-Munther said she could not, though she did issue another (non-)statement:

St. Joseph Hospital remains focused on ensuring the highest quality of care for our patients and their families, while maintaining a quality work environment for all of our employees. With respect to all personnel matters, we honor the dignity of each worker by not discussing or sharing information that is considered confidential. As with all cases involving questions or concerns about employee performance, St. Joseph Hospital treats each employee situation with utmost respect and we follow a thorough individual review process to ensure fair and consistent treatment for each employee. This process also provides an opportunity for each employee to speak on his/her own behalf. These standards of fairness were applied in the current case involving the ICU employees.

Any time an employee or patient raises concerns we treat each matter seriously. When a concern involving an employee is raised, we may place the employee in question on administrative leave until the issue can be reviewed expeditiously. If concerns are found to have merit, we will take appropriate actions in accordance with our policies and procedures.

The hospital's parent organization, the Catholic order of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange, maintains a "news room" on its Web site featuring statements on such controversial topics as poverty, immigration and global warming. So perhaps, in addition to showing respect for their employees' dignity/anonymity, the group's uber-tight lips reflect a certain media savvy.

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Marsh booty

Posted By on Thu, Jul 30, 2009 at 2:20 PM

Two odd things found at the Arcata Marsh of a Thursday afternoon:

A federal reserve note worth ten dollars American, right in the middle of the path with no one in sight.


A malformed dog licking the crank of a partially dismantled bicycle.


Granted, it was my dog, but still...odd.

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Bike Librarian update

Posted By on Thu, Jul 30, 2009 at 1:10 PM

Bike Librarian update: Remember Bill Burton of Arcata Bike Library fame? After leaving town angry that his space was taken over by a marijuana clinic, he's back with some new used bikes from Lyon, France. He bought a shipping container full and had them brought to the West Coast via the Panama Canal (a more carbon-friendly means by his calculations). He's mentioned in this short piece about an upcoming demonstration day for a proposed bike share system in forward-thinking Portland. Five companies are pitching different systems -- but Burton is not among them. He's mad at Portland's mayor because he invested some money figuring he'd get to set up a library there (with some city funding) only to have Mayor Sam Adams pull the plug. In the piece they say he opted out on the coming event because the city is not paying vendors to participate, but we suspect he has deep-seated issues beyond
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The Banducci Challenge

Posted By on Thu, Jul 30, 2009 at 10:39 AM

Pete Nichols, chair of the board for the fiscally strapped Northcoast Environmental Center, issued the following press release, promising T-shirts and bumper stickers to folks who help match the Banduccis' benevolent benefaction of five large:

Don and Maggie Banducci, long-time supporters of the NEC, have generously offered $5,000 challenge grant to help out the NEC during these tough times. However, there is a catch and WE NEED YOUR HELP!
The NEC will receive the money from the Banducci Challenge Grant only if we can raise $5,000 in pledges within two weeks.
The clock is ticking and we need to recieve all pledges by August 9.
You will receive a free "Un-Dam The Klamath" bumper sticker with your pledge. And contributers who pledge $100 or more will receive a free Northcoast Environmental Center T-Shirt!
We can accept cash, check or credit card for your pledge. Drop by the NEC, or mail your check to 1465 G St., Arcata, CA 95521. Remember to note that it is for the Banducci Challenge Grant. For more information call 845-0832.
Please help the NEC today!

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CGB vid

Posted By on Thu, Jul 30, 2009 at 9:47 AM


From the Redding Record-Searchlight (see below).

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Redding loves the Crab Grass Band

Posted By on Thu, Jul 30, 2009 at 9:24 AM

Redding loves the Crab Grass Band: When the Crabs played Redding, the band followed — and drew praise. My favorite quote: "Arcata is a true music town. There's always a drum circle somewhere." Video included (of CGB, not of a drum
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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Suspended St. Joe's nurses accused of over-sedating patients

Posted By on Wed, Jul 29, 2009 at 4:38 PM


Four nurses and a supervisor, who nearly six weeks ago were placed on administrative leave without cause from Eureka's St. Joseph Hospital, have been accused by hospital administrators of over-sedating patients, disregarding medication schedules and spending too much time on the Internet -- all while maintaining a "party-like atmosphere" during night shifts, according to Wesley Thornton, one of the accused nurses. A potentially criminal charge of patient abuse has also been leveled at one of the nurses, Thornton said. He denies any wrongdoing.


In a phone conversation earlier today, Thornton told the Journal that the four nurses and their non-union supervisor met separately Friday with hospital administrators, who presented them with evidence (scant, said Thornton) of unprofessional behavior. The nurses were informed that Dr. W. Scott Sageman was having trouble waking patients during the day, leading him to suspect they were being over-sedated, Thornton said.


St. Joseph spokesperson Courtney Hunt-Munther sent the following statement via e-mail:

We are continuing with a thorough internal review of this matter and will not discuss or share information about any personnel matters that are considered to be confidential. Out of respect for our employees and the sensitive issues involved, we are not able to provide any further specifics at this time.

"The charge," Thornton explained, "was that we would over-sedate patients at night so we could sleep. They told us, 'Since you guys have been gone there's been a 45 percent decrease in narcotic delivery to the patients.' That was their standard line," he said. "I don't have a retort other than [asking], 'Are the patients in pain?'"


Another of the four nurses was accused of administering medication too late in her shift or not at all, then attempting to cover her tracks in the inventory department and the computer system, Thornton said. However, he blames the hospital's medication administrative software, which he believes can create misperceptions of what actually happens during a shift.


Thornton claims that the charges of spending too much time on the Internet and maintaining a "party-like atmosphere" are unfounded and reflect a lack of understanding about the night shift. "Part of the reason we get paid more is to be up all night," Thornton said. "There is a lot of slack time. We read books, play games, watch the Internet, go check eBay."


Administrators presented reams of data collected from servers that chronicled their Internet usage, he said, though he insists none of these activities jeopardized the health of patients in the ICU.


This particular night crew was known for bringing in food and playing music, with two nurses regularly strumming their guitars, Thornton admitted. "We'll make sure patients around there are sedated," he added. "It's actually very soothing."


Medications used in the ICU include the sedatives Diprivan and Versed (Midazolam) as well as the pain reliever Morphine -- "Michael Jackson medications," as Thornton called them. He could provide no details on the charge of patient abuse, though he believes the accusation has no validity.


The nurses were initially placed on unpaid investigative suspension, but wages for the duration of the leave were reinstated after a union rep intervened. Thornton said he and the other nurses were expecting to be called into the hospital again today to discuss "the next step in the process."


Thornton believes the accusations are merely retribution for not staying in line. "It doesn't seem like there's any proof," he said. "There's no dead bodies. We do good patient care. ... The problem is these nurses speak their mind about policies they don't agree with. These nurses don't toe the line."


Reached Monday by e-mail, District Attorney Paul Gallegos said he was not aware of any investigation into these claims. "I would take such allegations, if they were supported by sufficient evidence, very seriously," he responded. "I hope that hospital does too."

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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Reforms lost in a pot cloud

Posted By on Tue, Jul 28, 2009 at 10:36 AM

Reforms lost in a pot cloud: This blog entry from The Daily Beast makes a compelling case that a 2010 ballot initiative to tax weed might overshadow, and therefore jeopardize, more important but less sexy measures. "California, [a political analyst] notes, has a history of campaign cycles in which social-issue initiatives—such as a stem-cell-research measure in 2004 or animal protection and same-sex marriage initiatives in 2008—eclipse good-government measures."

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