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Updated: 2 hours 47 min ago

Rain, snow could mess up Thanksgiving travel

November 25, 2014 - 8:09pm
MINEOLA, N.Y. (AP) — Thanksgiving travelers scrambled to change their plans and beat a storm expected to bring snow, slush and rain to the crowded Washington-to-Boston corridor Wednesday on one of the busiest, most stressful days of the year.   Forecasters said major Northeast cities will probably see moderate to heavy rain most of the day, though New York and other places were also gearing up for several inches of snow.   Higher elevations west of the Interstate 95 corridor could see as much as 6 to 12 inches before the nor'easter exits Wednesday night, meteorologist Andrew Orrison said.   "I always go on Tuesday to try to avoid the Wednesday rush, but it seems like more people are leaving on Tuesday now," said Bill Fraser, a landscaper from Henniker, New Hampshire, who was taking a train from Boston to New Rochelle, New York, to visit his mother for Thanksgiving.   Jenna Bouffard, a New York City public relations executive headed in the opposite direction, changed her bus ticket from Wednesday to Tuesday.   "I don't want to risk it," she said. "I'd rather be safe than sorry, and if it doesn't snow, then I just have an extra day at home with my family" in Uxbridge, Massachusetts.   Major airlines dropped their ticket-change fees for people flying in and out of the Northeast, allowing passengers to try to sneak on an earlier flight, though that appeared to be a challenging proposition, since most planes were filled.   By midafternoon Tuesday, just 14 flights within the U.S. were canceled for Wednesday, according to tracking service FlightAware. That's well below the norm for even a sunny day. United said it was planning to cancel 100 flights Wednesday in and out of Newark Liberty Airport in New Jersey — a small fraction of the traffic there. Delta planned to scrub 57 flights.   The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates Kennedy, LaGuardia and Newark Liberty airports, said it was lining up extra staff and snow removal equipment in the event of a heavy snowfall. Crews were prepared to work in 12-hour shifts if necessary, officials said.   At Newark Airport, retiree Sue Hansen, who lives in Roscoe, Illinois, arrived early on Tuesday to avoid the rush ahead of a big family reunion near Morristown, New Jersey.   "I've traveled the day before, and it was no good," she said, describing long lines, delays and lots of crowds. "This wasn't bad at all."   In Vermont, public safety officials warned that travel could be treacherous. Up to 16 inches of snow was forecast in some areas.   There was a bright spot in the forecast for residents of western New York, which last week saw up to 7 feet of snow.   "Buffalo will predominantly miss this event," Orrison said.   ___   Associated Press Writers Jill Colvin in Newark, N.J., Denise Lavoie in Boston, and Scott Mayerowitz and Karen Matthews in New York contributed to this report.

Simi Valley community helps out widow

November 25, 2014 - 6:37pm

The Simi Valley Boys & Girls Club has partnered with the Simi Valley Community Foundation to establish a charitable fund to benefit Amabelle Domingo, a mother of two whose husband was killed in an Oct. 3 car accident.

“My heart breaks for her; we want to do everything that we can to help her,” said Sandee Covone, the club’s assistant executive director.

“It’s going to be a long journey for her,” Covone said. “We want to do whatever we can do to help her be able to support herself, support her kids, not have to uproot them and be able to stay in their family home that they’ve lived in ... to maintain as much stability as they can.”

Domingo, 33, of Thousand Oaks, whose children are 3 and 14 years old, said the charitable act came as a surprise.

“It brought tears of joy,” said Domingo, who works as the front desk billing clerk at the club. “It’s such a huge blessing, and it’s amazing to have a family here that I didn’t even know I could count on until all this had arisen.”

Michael Domingo, 32, who served in the Navy, worked two jobs — at Sprouts market and as a certified nursing assistant for a private patient — to support his family in addition to volunteering as a youth pastor with his wife at a church in Reseda.

“He was definitely our support and our strength,” his widow said. “He had an honorable discharge awhile ago but he was still volunteering his time in the military.”

At the time of the car accident, their 3-year-old son Malachi was in the car but was unharmed.

“It’s a call that shakes you to your core, especially when it’s a young mother with two small children,” said Virginia Hayward, chief executive officer at the Boys & Girls Club who serves on the board of the Simi Valley Community Foundation.

“We are trying to provide her with as much care and support as we possibly can, but we know we can only offer a small part of what is truly needed as she tries to work through this enormous loss.”

Donations to the fund can be made by check made out to the SVCF/Domingo Family Fund and mailed to the Simi Valley Community Foundation, P.O. Box 1164, Simi Valley CA 93062. Call 800-342-9953 for more information.

“The account allows individuals and companies in our community an opportunity to help Amabelle and her family in their time of need,” Hayward said. “While nothing will bring back her beloved husband, we hope this will at least help her to rebuild her life in some small way.”

Domingo is thankful for the effort.

“It’s very surprising that a whole community would come together to help someone in need,” she said. “It definitely brings joy to our hearts and it really helps in making things feel like it’s going to be OK and we can get through it.”

Oxnard recount possible after 10-vote win

November 25, 2014 - 5:56pm

Oxnard City Councilman Bert Perello first heard he’d been re-elected when he got a congratulatory call Monday evening from challenger Steve Huber.

“That’s how I found out,” Perello said Tuesday.

Perello won by 10 votes, according to final results certified Monday by the Ventura County Elections Division. The two men have been enduring nail-biting, twice-weekly updates since the Nov. 4 election. Huber’s early lead of 206 votes slipped as counting continued, with Perello pulling ahead about 10 days later. His lead grew to 43 votes before slipping in the last two updates.

“If this is not an election where every vote counts, I don’t know what is,” Perello said, adding: “It feels a lot nicer to win than it does to lose.”

The two had been awaiting results for the city’s second council seat. Incumbent Carmen Ramirez dominated the field of seven, with the outcome lingering only for the second seat. Ramirez had 13,510 votes, or more than 30 percent of the total. Perello ended up with the next highest count at 6,680, and Huber with 6,670.

Huber could not be reached Tuesday. On Monday he said he’d congratulated Perello but was looking at options, including a possible recount.

Talk of a potential recount had city and county officials poring through California’s elections code to nail down details of the uncommon, and costly, process.

Any voter can request a recount, provided he or she is willing to pay for it, within five days after results are certified.

In the past, some close races triggered a type of automatic recount, but those rules no longer exist, said Ventura County Clerk-Recorder Mark Lunn, who oversees elections.

“There are no provisions for mandatory recounts,” Lunn said.

Lunn said the deadline to request a recount is Friday. For the Oxnard race, a voter would need to put down a significant deposit on costs estimated between $15,000 to $25,000, a range that depends in part on whether counting is done by hand or machine. Any recount would be scheduled within seven days of the request, Lunn said, and would be done in an “expeditious manner.”

Oxnard City Clerk Daniel Martinez said he’s still looking at whether the deadline to request a recount might be Monday, since county offices are closed Saturday, the fifth day of the deadline.

In the meantime, Martinez’s timeline for scheduling the Oxnard’s council’s traditional swearing-in ceremony, planned for Dec. 2, could be postponed.

“It depends on what happens,” Martinez said. “At this point, we’re planning on Dec. 2.”

Walk raises awareness for canine cancer

November 25, 2014 - 5:52pm

When Luke Robinson lived in Texas in the early 2000s, he was a financial analyst with no room in his heart for a dog. But when an ex-girlfriend insisted he adopt a Great Pyrenees dog named Malcolm, Robinson discovered a deep spiritual connection with an animal that transformed his life and led him on his mission of bringing attention to canine cancer.

Robinson on Tuesday visited the Veterinary Medical and Surgical Group in Ventura during his second awareness walk, this one down the West Coast. He left the Vancouver area in Canada on May 10 with two dogs, Hudson and Indiana, “Indy,” and is heading to San Diego by Dec. 14. Hudson had to abandon the effort in August because of paw issues.

Robinson’s first dog, Malcolm, was diagnosed in 2006 with metastatic bone cancer at age 6, and the dog’s death two years later left him bereft but with a sense of purpose. Robinson decided he wanted to bring attention to cancer’s devastating effect on dogs.

“When Malcolm was first diagnosed, I didn’t really know that dogs have cancer. I never knew that. Why? I knew my path in life had changed direction,” Robinson said. “Before Malcolm, I wasn’t really a dog guy.”

After Malcolm died, Robinson put his belongings in storage and embarked on a hike from Austin, Texas, to Boston with two dogs, Hudson and Murphy. And in an effort to raise money and awareness, he started the 2 Million Dogs Foundation, now called the PuppyUp Foundation, which sponsors walks in the United States.

John MacFadyen, director of the Veterinary Medical and Surgical Group, said having Robinson stop by the facility, which is a 24-hour emergency clinic that also treats dogs with cancer, was a perfect fit.

“Bringing attention to canine cancer is near and dear to what we do,” MacFadyen said.

Veterinary oncologist Dr. Lori Cesario said treating animals doesn’t differ too much from dealing with humans.

“We use the same types of chemotherapy, but we reduce the dosage significantly. We don’t want to make the animals sick. Our most important consideration is quality of life,” Cesario said. “It’s a trade-off. We are curing fewer patients than we would if we could be more aggressive.”

Diane Seno, of Ventura, said she came to the animal hospital to greet Robinson because she’s been following his progress online as he’s made his way down the coast. Seno said that when her 8-year-old rescued greyhound Stella was diagnosed with cancer, she wanted to make sure she did everything she could for her dog.

“I wanted to give her the best chance for long-term survival I could. She’s my baby. I have no children. She was a racing greyhound and she got off to a rough start,” said Seno, who said Stella received six expensive chemotherapy treatments and has been cancer-free for a year.

Robinson said this trip has been rough. The walk on Highway 101 along the Washington and Oregon coasts was perilous. Then Hudson started having paw issues and was shipped to Memphis, Tennessee, to a friend. Robinson found out in September that Hudson has cancer — his third Great Pyrenees to be diagnosed with the disease. Murphy also had cancer.

But each setback leaves him more committed to raising money for the animals, he said. Robinson noted that veterinary cancer treatment can result in advancements in cancer treatment for humans, especially when experimental drugs are used.

On the Net:

Oxnard hotel names new manager

November 25, 2014 - 5:14pm

Colleen Huther has been named general manager of the Embassy Suites Mandalay Beach Hotel & Resort in Oxnard.

Hilton Worldwide, which owns the resort on the Oxnard coast, made the announcement Tuesday.

Huther will oversee day-to-day operations of the all-suite resort that recently underwent a major renovation to guest rooms and public spaces, including the lobby, meeting rooms, and breakfast and evening reception areas.

Huther most recently was general manager of The Annapolis Marriott Waterfront Hotel in Maryland. During her time there, she also was named vice president of asset management and oversaw 11 other hotels while remaining the general manager of the Annapolis Marriott Waterfront.

Her earlier experience includes working as assistant food and beverage director of The Georgetown Marbury House in Washington, D.C. She spent eight years as director of sales and marketing at The Historic Inns of Annapolis, a Grand Heritage Hotel in Maryland, before being promoted to national sales director at Grand Heritage Hotels.

Huther earned a bachelor of science degree at Indiana University. She is married and has three children.

Don't burn down your house this holiday season

November 25, 2014 - 4:50pm

Dreaming of a fiery Christmas like this scene from "The Santa Clause"?

We didn't think so. And according to the U.S. Fire Administration, more cooking fires occur on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day than any other days of the year. (Video via The Tennessean)

In 2011, the U.S. lost $11.7 billion to fires, so if you've already broken the bank with your holiday shopping, it's probably not a bad idea to take extra precautions. (Video via U.S. Fire AdministrationABC)

For one, always stay in the kitchen if you are frying, grilling or broiling food. It's recommended you turn the stove off even if leaving for a short time. It's not a bad idea to set a timer to remind you that you have something cooking if you are leaving it to bake or boil. (Video via National Fire Protection Association)

And even though it may sound appealing, the Fire Administration warns turkey fryers are pretty dangerous. It's possible to tip them over, and any amount of spilled cooking oil could possibly start a fire. 

If a grease fire does break out, WFTS shows how throwing water on the fire will actually make it worse. If a fire extinguisher is not readily available, you should try to suffocate the fire using a lid or a cookie sheet. 

It's not just cooking that poses a fire hazard over the holidays, either. Christmas trees have proven dangerous too.

It's important to remember to avoid any heat source such as fireplaces or radiators when putting up a tree. The tree also needs to be watered regularly because a dried-out tree can go up in flames more quickly. (Video via State Farm)

And be sure to check that the string of lights around the tree has no broken cords or loose bulb connections. It's best to avoid putting candles near the tree or drapes as well. (Video via NBC)

And your most important holiday preparation tip? Make sure you have sufficient homeowners or renters insurance. You know, just in case.

"Hi. Um, we were trying to fry a turkey and ... the fryer has caught on fire," a woman says in this YouTube video.

"That is exactly why you want a high-quality fire extinguisher right in the kitchen."

This video includes images from Getty Images, Didriks / CC BY 2.0 and Nik Sebastian / CC BY NC SA 2.0.

Police look into report of kidnapping attempt

November 25, 2014 - 4:42pm

Police said Tuesday they were investigating a report that somebody tried to kidnap two young children the day before in northwest Ventura.

A 7-year-old boy and his cousin, a 10-year-old girl, told police they were walking about 5 p.m. Monday in the 100 block of Dakota Drive near two men in a dark-colored, four-door car. The passenger called to the children, got out of the car, grabbed the boy by the shirt and tried to pull him into the vehicle, the children told police.

The children ran away and got help, but the two men and car were gone by the time police arrived, authorities said.

Anyone with information should contact Detective Casey Sutherland at 339-4467.

The future is in the research

November 25, 2014 - 4:02pm

The voters have spoken and come January there will be more red ties worn by Republicans in Washington than there are today trying to turn this country around.

It is interesting to note that only 36.4 percent of eligible voters cast ballots in the midterm general election, marking the lowest voter turnout in 72 years, according to Thinkprogress. The same source goes on to say the last time voter turnout was this low was in 1942 just after the United States entered World War II when 33.9 percent of eligible voters participated in the election.

I am no political pundit and my comments are not for or against any political party. Instead, since paying up to $10,000 a year since 1999 for independent research that I study closely I will share with you what to look for in determining how to read the economic tea leaves.

Industry apology

Let me begin by offering an apology for my industry. I entered the securities industry early 1979 and the common point of view is that it is not possible to understand the markets. My industry has investors believe it’s all a random walk on Wall Street and that most of us are not smart enough to comprehend what drives the markets so investors must rely on educated sales people who have an agenda to make more money as we underwrite stock and push proprietary models and products. We will keep this discussion simple, because after all, it may not be easy, but it really is simple to understand.

When we look at the power of total spending by country as ranked by gross domestic product, according to the World Bank in 2013 the U.S. is No. 1 in the world at $16.8 trillion. China stands at $9.24 trillion in U.S. dollars. As we drill down deeper we can see a report every year released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics called the Consumer Expenditure Survey. As an analogy suppose you had three dogs in your backyard, Which one would you watch the closest? You will probably pay close attention to the biggest and baddest dog, as that is the one that can do the most damage to your property and to people. We see there are three dogs or groups that constitute the U.S. economy relative to total spending: government, business, and the consumer. Economists don’t often agree on much, but where they do agree thanks to the same source is that the consumer stands in first position with about 70 percent of total spending in the U.S., followed by business at 20 percent, and government at 10 percent. So the consumer is the dog or group to watch the closest. Business and government contribute to total spending, but it is the consumer group that is driving the economic bus.

Red vs. blue

Reflect on the past two presidential elections when you stayed up all night to see which candidate would take office. The great surprise is that you could have turned off the TV after the polls closed in Ohio. You may not know anyone in Ohio, but that was the state that gave you all of the information you needed to know about how the rest of the country would fall in line. Keeping it simple, the most famous average family lives in Springfield, a mid-sized town maybe in the Midwest. The 2013 average household income in the country income, whether there are one or two people working, is $51,100, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. From the same source, when we take a look at Thousand Oaks we can see that the average household income is about $100,000. With the national average at around $51,000 and the local average about $100,000, how are you and your family doing? How much can you save? Now that we know we must watch the average person if we want to ask the question are you the consumer spending more or saving more money?

Your child is 25 years old this year. What must parents buy 25-year-old children? Not much. When we look at average families, as represented in the HS Dent Research, peak income and peak earning takes place between ages 46-50. As children finish school and move out in their early 20s, the parents’ spending requirements suddenly become optional. The number of 46-year-olds peaked in 2007, according to the Census Bureau. The most fundamental driver to the U.S. economy is average people, each one unique, doing very predictable things in life. For example, most Americans get their first job at 20, buy their first car at 25, get married at 26, have their first child at 28, and buy their first home at 31. We tend to buy the largest home we will soon never need after the kids go to school or move away in our mid to late 40s.

Skewed Assets

The bottom 50 percent of Americans owned just 1 percent of all assets in 2013, down from 3 percent in 1989, according to the Federal Reserve Survey of Consumer Finances. From the same source we see that the wealthiest 5 percent of Americans owned 63 percent of all assets in the country last year. While the average peak earning and peak spending takes place in the late 40s age peak spending for the wealthy is age 53. As we have noted here before, the year that the highest number of 53-year-olds peak just happens to be 2014, according to the HS Dent Research and the Census Bureau. In Sept., 45 percent of 2,022 Americans surveyed said they do not believe that their financial situation will rebound in their lifetime to the level it was before the 2008 global financial crisis, according to Harris Poll. You might be managing today, but just suppose that the policy makers’ smoke and mirrors short-term fixes that may help produce election success results in global depression sometime soon. Before you get too complacent again, now is the time to get your house in order.

John Grace is president of Investor’s Advantage Corp. in Westlake Village. He is a registered principal of National Planning Corp and a master certified and charger member of HS Dent Advisor’s Network.

Screenings, seminars and other events planned

November 25, 2014 - 3:54pm


Programs scheduled

The Pleasant Valley Senior Center will offer a variety of programs at 1605 E. Burnley St.:

A free showing of “God’s Not Dead” will begin at 1 p.m. Dec. 4.

SCAN Education Center will present a seminar on senior prevention screenings and vaccines from 10-11 a.m. Dec. 11.

A workshop for volunteer drivers and those needing rides will begin at 10:30 a.m. Dec. 18.

Call 482-4881 for details.


Ride talk planned

Mobility Management Partners will share information about Catch a Ride at 1 p.m. Dec. 9 at the Moorpark Active Adult Center, 799 Moorpark Ave.

The program has seniors recruit someone to drive them for various needs. They will be reimbursed for the mileage.

Reservations are required. Call 517-6261.

Santa Paula

Fitness class set

The Santa Paula Senior Center will offer a class emphasizing bones, balance and strength training from 10-11 a.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays through Jan. 22 at 530 W. Main St.

Cost is $32. Call 933-4226.

Simi Valley

Council will meet

The Simi Valley Senior Center will host a Council on Aging Meeting at 1 p.m. Dec. 8 at 3900 Avenida Simi.

Visit or call 583-6363 to learn more.


Works by Boulez, Wilco drummer coming to Ojai

November 25, 2014 - 3:42pm

The Ojai Music Festival may be entering its 69th season, but it doesn’t plan to start acting its age anytime soon.

When the internationally acclaimed festival takes place again from June 10-14, it will feature visiting music director Steven Schick in a piece that requires him to use his bare chest as a percussion instrument.

It will stay out late and get up early, in one case assembling audiences at 5 a.m. for a nearly five-hour performance of Morton Feldman’s “For Philip Guston” in the Ojai Art Center. (There is talk of providing pillows and blankets for attendees.)

And it will highlight, in a free community concert in the Libbey Park Gazebo, a work by percussionist Glenn Kotche, drummer for the alternative rock band Wilco.

These were just some of the 2015 programming details revealed by the festival’s artistic director, Thomas Morris, during a launch party for donors and supporters at the organization’s Signal Street office.


“(The festival) is creeping into Wednesday for the first time,” said Morris.

By adding a day to the schedule, festival organizers are able to include programming designed to honor the French composer and conductor Pierre Boulez as he marks his 90th birthday.

On June 10, ticket holders will be able to sit in on a panel discussion about Boulez before attending the West Coast premiere of “A Pierre Dream: A Portrait of Pierre Boulez.”

The multimedia work was given its world premiere this month as part of the Chicago Symphony’s Beyond the Score series. By combining live and recorded music with sets by architect Frank Gehry and rare documentary footage of Boulez, it creates the impression of “getting inside his brain,” said Morris.

Boulez, who served as the festival’s music director seven times between 1967 and 2003, is unable to travel from his home in Baden-Baden, Germany to attend in person, Morris said. But his works will be featured in at least six concerts, making Boulez a guiding presence at the 2015 festival.

Boulez is one of a record-setting 34 composers — 24 of them living, and 17 of them new to the festival — whose works will be heard during the 37 events planned “so far,” Morris said. Those events will include movie screenings, late-night concerts, and even-later night gatherings at local restaurants.

Specific details about the festival schedule weren’t discussed publicly before the launch party, a fact that hasn’t harmed sales, Morris said.

“We have already sold over 40 percent of tickets, and we have not announced a program ... We simply said, ‘Here are the dates and a few of the artists’,” he added.

In other recent festival news, the organization’s board of directors in August named David Nygren as president.

Nygren, a Santa Barbara resident who has served on the board since 2011 and is the founder and chief executive officer of Nygren Consulting LLC, takes over for Stephen Morris, who continues to serve on the festival’s executive committee.

Thomas Morris, who joined the organization as artistic director in 2004, agreed this month to extend his contract through 2021, the festival’s 75th anniversary season. He previously announced the selection of Peter Sellars and Esa-Pekka Salonen as music directors for the festival in 2016 and 2017, respectively.


What: The 69th Ojai Music Festival will feature Steven Schick as music director and a program that includes West Coast premieres of John Luther Adams' "Sila: The Breath of the World" and of the Chicago Symphony's Beyond the Score production of "A Pierre Dream" honoring Pierre Boulez.

When: June 10-14, 2015

Passes: Tickets for the June 10 performance of "A Pierre Dream" ($40-$90) and weekend, three-day and four-day festival passes with reserved seating ($120-$730) are available now. Single ticket sales will begin in March.

Video: To see a clip of "A Pierre Dream," click here.

Information: Call 805-646-2053 or click on



Exhibitions, speakers and other events planned

November 25, 2014 - 3:40pm


Program to feature student artwork

The art program at CSU Channel Islands will present “The Art of the Book” from Monday through Jan. 19 at the university’s Palm Gallery, 92 Palm Drive.

An opening reception will take place from 6-8 p.m. Dec. 4. The exhibit will showcase books made in artist/faculty member Beverly Decker’s Special Topics Art 490 class, as well as the final projects of students in the Art 106 Color and Design course.

Email or call 437-2772 for more information.


Birthday hike is open to public

Longtime Ventura resident Wayne Overton, a retired math teacher at Hueneme High School in Oxnard, will celebrate his 80th birthday with a hike to Nordhoff Peak from Cozy Dell trailhead at 7 a.m. Dec. 6.

The 14-mile round trip hike is open to the public. Participants should meet at the trailhead at 6:50 a.m.

Contact his son John Overton at for more information.

Santa Paula

Author will share about his book

John Pendleton will share thoughts and ideas from the second volume of his two-volume book “An American Identity: Heroism, Innovation and Popular Culture” at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Blanchard Community Library, 119 N. Eighth St.

Call 525-3615 for more information.

Thousand Oaks

Exhibit to spotlight Santa Paula artist

More than 1,000 gold sculptures of heroic figures by Santa Paula artist Gerald Zwers will be the centerpiece of an exhibit titled “A Dream of Utopia” from Tuesday through Feb. 4 in the Kwan Fong Gallery of Art and Culture at California Lutheran University, 60 W. Olsen Road.

A reception will begin at 7 p.m. Dec. 6 at the gallery. Visit or call Michael Pearce at 444-7716 for more information.


Hospital will host holiday boutique

Community Memorial Hospital’s auxiliary gift shop will have its annual holiday boutique from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dec. 6 and 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Dec. 7 in the Nicholas Auditorium on the eighth floor of the hospital, 147 N. Brent St.

It will include handcrafted items and homemade baked goods. Volunteers are welcome.

Call 652-5043 for more information.

Service will help honor loved ones

Cypress Place Senior Living will have a candlelight memorial service at 5:30 p.m. Dec. 3 at 1200 Cypress Point Lane.

There will be speakers and music. Guests can light a candle in honor of a loved one.

Seating is limited. Call 650-8000 to reserve a seat.

Ventura County

Visitor centers plan holiday sales

The visitor centers of the Santa Monica Mountains will host a holiday sale Saturday and Sunday at King Gillette Ranch, 26876 Mulholland Highway in Calabasas, and Satwiwa Native American Indian Culture Center, 4121 Potrero Road in Newbury Park.

The public can enjoy up to 75 percent off all store items except handcrafted goods from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Call 370-2302 for more information.

Fire stations support toy drive

The Ventura County Fire Department is supporting the Spark of Love toy drive, with all fire stations in the county serving as drop-off points for new, unwrapped toys.

The program will run through Dec. 24. Gifts donated in Ventura County stay here. Donors are encouraged to consider items for teens and infants.

Call 389-9710 for more information.


Fillmore will run senior center

November 25, 2014 - 2:46pm

The city of Fillmore has decided not to renew the lease of the nonprofit that operates the city-owned Fillmore Senior Center, and will start running the center itself next year.

The new arrangement will go into effect in July 2015, once the city’s lease with Fillmore Senior Center Inc. expires, City Manager David Rowlands said. The nonprofit had been negotiating with the city on extending the lease, but the City Council decided instead to take over the senior center’s operations.

The Fillmore Senior Center is in downtown Fillmore, just off Central Avenue, and offers meals and other programs to the city’s elderly residents. The nonprofit took over the center and its programs in 2010, said Patti Walker, the chairwoman of the nonprofit board and a former city council member. The group pays the city for a portion of the building’s utility costs.

Walker said there have been some disagreements with the city over the management of the center, but she was surprised last week when Rowlands told her the lease would not be renewed.

“I thought we were going to work through these things, but obviously they felt otherwise,” Walker said.

One source of conflict, Walker said, was whether the city would allow other programs at the center while the senior programs are going on in the main room. The city held English classes in the next room, and also invited the Ventura County Area Agency on Aging to hold a nutrition program in the kitchen, Walker said. Both of those conflicted with the senior center board’s desire to expand its midday programs.

The City Council decision to stop leasing out the senior center came last week during a closed session of the regular council meeting. The session was closed because the Brown Act, the state law that covers public meetings, allows cities to discuss real estate negotiations behind closed doors.

In this case, it appears Fillmore may have violated the law, said Peter Scheer, the executive director of the First Amendment Coalition and a Brown Act expert.

“It sounds like those are really two separate decisions, and they could have and should have discussed the second one, whether to contract out the senior center or take over the service, in public,” Brown said.

Tiffany Israel, Fillmore’s city attorney, said the council was within its rights to make the decision in closed session. Israel and Rowlands brought a proposed lease extension to the council, she said, and council members decided not to adopt it.

“We convened the closed session to talk about the price and terms of the lease that was up to be renewed, and that was all that we talked about,” she said. “The decision not to renew it was unexpected, but it was a possible outcome.”

Fillmore Mayor Manuel Minjares said the council decided to take over the center because there have been “some serious concerns about how the senior center is being run.” He would not elaborate.

Minjares said he would be open to talking about the senior center in public at a future council meeting.

The city also had financial reasons to take over the senior center. Rowlands said the nonprofit was originally formed because at the time, the city couldn’t afford to run senior programs at the center.

“It’s not so much that we’re unhappy with the job they’re doing,” Rowlands said. “The city did run the operations before, and we felt that with the way our finances are coming back into place, we would have the resources and the staff to do it again.”

Rowlands said he didn’t think running the senior center would cost the city much, because most of its programs are funded by outside grants.

In addition to meals and nutrition programs, the senior center also offers arts and crafts classes, a swim program and other activities. Rowlands said the city plans to expand those offerings when it takes over full operation of the center.

“We are looking at programs to offer and we will put together a plan over the next few months, and we will take that to the City Council and Parks Commission,” he said. “I think people will see some enhancements. We’re trying to take the good things they’re doing and build on that.”

Former Ventura surgeon accused of fraud

November 25, 2014 - 2:40pm

A former Ventura neurosurgeon who was sued by more than two dozen people and surrendered his California medical license was arrested Monday in Michigan on suspicion of federal health care fraud.

Dr. Aria Omar Sabit, of Bloomfield Hills, near Detroit, is being accused by the FBI of performing spinal fusion surgeries but not implanting devices on the spine. A criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Michigan accuses Sabit of billing private and government insurance agencies for his care and leading patients into thinking the full procedures were completed.

All of the allegations involve patients in Michigan.

Sabit's attorney, Mark Kriger, of Detroit, said the surgeon will plead not guilty. He's being held without bond until a hearing scheduled for Monday.

Before moving to Michigan, Sabit's practice was based in Ventura. He performed surgeries at Community Memorial Hospital for 17 months, ending in late 2010. His stint in the area triggered a landslide of lawsuits alleging malpractice. Many but not all of the cases have been settled.

The California Medical Board accused Sabit of performing unnecessary procedures and committing gross negligence. In August, Sabit gave up his California medical license.

The FBI criminal complaint said Sabit is also being investigated by the U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and Homeland Security. In a civil case filed in federal court in California, Department of Justice officials alleged Sabit submitted Medicare claims tainted by his role as an investor in a company that sold the implants he used.

Sabit denied the allegations.

In the complaint that triggered Monday's arrest, federal officials allege four patients were told by Sabit they needed spinal procedures involving devices implanted in their backs.

"All patients received second opinions from other doctors stating that no such spinal fusion had been performed and there was no evidence of any screw, or any medical device in the spinal column of the patient," FBI Special Agent Peter Hayes said in the complaint.

The complaint said that from 2011 to 2014, Sabit billed government and private insurance agencies for at least $32.8 million in claims and was paid $1.8 million.

"I don't believe it is appropriate to comment on pending cases," said Kriger, Sabit's attorney. "I think the proper forum is the courtroom."

The fraud accusation carries a maximum sentence of 10 years.

The criminal complaint also alleges Sabit, born in Afghanistan, illegally became a U.S. citizen in 2013. The FBI alleges he was ineligible for naturalization because he committed health care fraud and did not disclose it.

The complaint against Sabit was originally sealed. Hayes said the doctor was considered a flight risk. The complaint was unsealed Monday, the same day Sabit was arrested.

Window washer fights for life after fall

November 25, 2014 - 1:51pm

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - A 58-year-old window washer who fell 11 stories from a building onto a moving car is "fighting for his life" and opens his eyes when his family speaks to him.

The man's name and city of residence has not been released.

San Francisco General Hospital released a statement from his family, who asked to not be identified.

Police said the man was moving equipment on the roof of a bank building in San Francisco's financial district and not on a window-washing platform when he fell at 10 a.m. last Friday.

In the statement, the family thanked a nurse and firefighters who helped him.

The man, who has a wife and three daughters, remains in critical condition but is doing better than doctors expected, according to the statement.

No one else was injured, including the driver of the car the man fell on.

Apps for Thanksgiving travel woes

November 25, 2014 - 1:31pm
Traveling by plane, train or automobile can be a headache. Mixing in Thanksgiving can make it a throbbing migraine. Technology provides some pain relief in the form of apps to let you know which roads are clogged, what gate your flight leaves from and whether trains are running on time.   The American Automobile Association forecasts that the Wednesday through Sunday period will see more than 46 million Americans travel at least 50 miles from home — the most Thanksgiving road warriors since 2007. About nine in 10 are expected to drive — or be driven — with about 3.6 million flying.   Here are some ways to make the journey a bit less taxing.   PLANES   FlightAware tracks not only your flight's status but also any delays or cancellations, even gate changes. Set it up for a specific trip and it will send alerts so you don't have to keep checking for changes.   Seats matter, especially if you're traveling with kids. The ExpertFlyer app has a feature called "seat alert," which informs you when a seat you want to snag becomes available.   If you have the pleasure of a connecting flight, consider FlightBoard. Every five minutes, it updates with the latest from airport departure boards at over 3,000 airports worldwide. If you're picking up at the airport, it's one way to find out whether the flight will land on time.   Or, if you want to keep it simple, get the app of the airline you're flying. That will typically let you do things such as get a boarding pass or — gulp — rebook your flight.   TRAINS   While Amtrak has an app that lets you make or change reservations and check the status of your train, local and regional public transit doesn't have the same range of resources as air travel.   At least 70 percent of larger transit agencies have apps that offer real-time travel information, according to Darnell Grisby, director of policy development and research at the American Public Transportation Association. As for using your phone to buy and manage tickets — that's not as common an option, but some agencies offer it.   AUTOMOBILES   Traffic apps are a familiar friend for many commuters. Some, such as Sigalert, offer color-coded highway maps — red for "jammed up," yellow for "slow," green for "full speed ahead." Sometimes the data that inform the maps are just outdated enough that they can lead a driver onto a freeway that may have been traffic-free five minutes ago, but now has a building bottleneck.   The popular app Waze tries to solve that problem by asking drivers to report traffic and other problems, which the app then shares with other users.   AND JUST IN CASE   Should everything go sideways, and you're suddenly stranded, Priceline and Hotel Tonight can help you find a room nearby.

1 person stuck in Simi Valley tree

November 25, 2014 - 12:46pm

A tree trimmer was stuck 50 feet in a tree in Simi Valley Tuesday after possibly being electrocuted, officials said.

The incident was reported about noon in the 4100 block of Eileen Street, according to the Ventura County Fire Department.

Preliminary reports indicate that two people might have been stuck and one person was rescued, but the details were unclear.

Southern California Santa Ana winds weaken

November 25, 2014 - 12:02pm
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Santa Ana winds blowing through the mountains of Los Angeles and Ventura counties have weakened significantly and forecasters say that could reduce the danger of wildfires in Southern California.   The National Weather Service says cold air that was expected to fuel another boost in the winds moved much farther to the east Tuesday.   Fire danger warnings remain in effect through Wednesday afternoon, but meteorologists say that even though humidity levels are under 10 percent, the weaker winds may result in only localized red flag conditions and the warnings could be canceled.   The region has otherwise benefited from the Santa Anas, with high temperatures in the 70s and 80s.

Oakland police arrest more than 40 protesters

November 25, 2014 - 11:58am

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) - Oakland's mayor says more than 40 people have been arrested for hurling bottles, breaking windows and setting small fires during protests of a Missouri grand jury's decision not to indict a white police officer in the fatal shooting of an unarmed black 18-year-old.

Click here for more coverage of Ferguson.

Mayor Jean Quan said early Tuesday that no serious injuries were reported in overnight demonstrations, during which freeways were blocked and businesses and a police car were spray-painted.

Quan said Oakland police showed tremendous restraint in the face of hundreds of protesters provoking them for hours.

Some demonstrators lay on the ground while others outlined their bodies in chalk during a moment of silence in memory of Michael Brown, the 18-year-old shot to death by a police officer Aug. 9 in Ferguson, Missouri.

Google's latest: A spoon that steadies tremors

November 25, 2014 - 11:51am
MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. (AP) — Google is throwing its money, brain power and technology at the humble spoon.   But these spoons (don't call them spoogles) are a bit more than your basic utensil: Using hundreds of algorithms, they allow people with essential tremors and Parkinson's disease to eat without spilling.   The technology senses how a hand is shaking and makes instant adjustments to stay balanced. In clinical trials, the Liftware spoons reduced shaking of the spoon bowl by an average of 76 percent.   "We want to help people in their daily lives today and hopefully increase understanding of disease in the long run," Google spokesperson Katelin Jabbari said.   Other adaptive devices have been developed to help people with tremors — rocker knives, weighted utensils, pen grips. But until now, experts say, technology has not been used in this way.   "It's totally novel," said UC San Francisco Medical Center neurologist Dr. Jill Ostrem, who specializes in movement disorders like Parkinson's disease and essential tremors.   She helped advise the inventors and says the device has been a remarkable asset for some of her patients.   "I have some patients who couldn't eat independently, they had to be fed, and now they can eat on their own," she said. "It doesn't cure the disease — they still have tremor — but it's a very positive change."   Google got into the no-shake utensil business in September, acquiring a small, National of Institutes of Health-funded startup called Lift Labs for an undisclosed sum.   More than 10 million people worldwide, including Google co-founder Sergey Brin's mother, have essential tremors or Parkinson's disease. Brin has said he also has a mutation associated with higher rates of Parkinson's and has donated more than $50 million to research for a cure. But the Lift Labs acquisition was not related, Jabbari said.   Lift Lab founder Anupam Pathak said moving from a small, four-person startup in San Francisco to the vast Google campus in Mountain View has freed him up to be more creative as he explores how to apply the technology even more broadly.   His team works at the search giant's division called Google(x) Life Sciences, which is also developing a smart contact lens that measures glucose levels in tears for diabetics and is researching how nanoparticles in blood might help detect diseases.   Joining Google has been motivating, said Pathak, but his focus remains on people who are now able to eat independently with his device.   "If you build something with your hands and it has that sort of an impact, it's the greatest feeling ever," he said. "As an engineer who likes to build things, that's the most validating thing that can happen."   Pathak said they also hope to add sensors to the spoons to help medical researchers and providers better understand, measure and alleviate tremors.   Shirin Vala, 65, of Oakland, has had an essential tremor for about a decade. She was at her monthly Essential Tremor group at a San Ramon medical clinic earlier this year when researchers developing the device introduced the idea and asked if anyone was interested in helping them.   As it was refined, she tried it out and gave them feedback. And when they hit the market at $295 apiece, she bought one.   Without the spoon, Vala said eating was really a challenge because her hands trembled so hard food fell off the utensils before she could eat it.   "I was shaking and I had a hard time to keep the food on a spoon, especially soup or something like an olive or tomatoes or something. It is very embarrassing. It's very frustrating," she said.   The spoon definitely improved her situation. "I was surprised that I held the food in there so much better. It makes eating much easier, especially if I'm out at a restaurant," she said.   ___   Follow Martha Mendoza at .

Apple's market cap tops $700B for the first time

November 25, 2014 - 11:50am
NEW YORK (AP) — Apple's market capitalization surpassed $700 billion for the first time Tuesday morning.   The iPhone maker is currently the most valuable company in the world, and its stock is up 48 percent in 2014.   Apple stock has been strong since late April, when the company announced a series of moves intended to bolster its share price. Apple announced its first stock split in nine years and said it would buy back another $30 billion in stock. It also raised its quarterly dividend.   The S&P 500 and other indexes are also at record highs.   When the moves were announced, Apple's stock price was about 25 percent below its September 2012 peak.   Shares of the Cupertino, California, company rose 54 cents to $119.17 in midday trading after rising as high as $119.75 earlier in the session.