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Plan to rid island of ant species up for comment

Ventura County Star Top Stories - January 25, 2015 - 5:41pm

If left unchecked, a species of tiny ants could change the ecology of Santa Cruz Island, officials say.

Commonly found on the mainland, the Argentine ant likely got to the island off the Ventura County coast accidentally in the 1960s. In the years since, they have spread to several locations, covering about 1,200 acres.

“We’ve known that the Argentine ants have been out there since the mid-1990s,” said Kate Faulkner, the chief of resources management for the Channel Islands National Park.

With the threat of them spreading further — hitchhiking on something carried to another location or being washed downstream — officials have proposed a project to eliminate them from the island.

“They will eliminate all other ants,” Faulkner said of the tiny insect native to South America.

Where Argentine ants are found, there’s typically no native ants left, she said. Working in swarms, they also can have an impact on much larger species, from pollinating bees to nestling birds.

The National Park Service has released an environmental report on the proposal to eliminate the Argentine ant from the island. It’s available for public comments until Feb. 22.

One of five islands in the Channel Islands National Park, Santa Cruz is owned by The Nature Conservancy and the National Park Service.

In 2009, the agencies pulled together a group of experts to talk about the possibilities of controlling the Argentine ant population.

Adrian Wenner, a retired professor of natural history at UC Santa Barbara, was part of that group. He was on Santa Cruz Island in 1996 and found the ants there.

Wenner, on the island as part of the successful efforts to eradicate nonnative honeybee colonies, had reached into a cavity under an oak tree. When he pulled out his hand, it was covered in ants.

Native ants don’t swarm like those ones did, he said. After work to verify the population, he notified The Nature Conservancy of his findings.

“There’s no choice,” Wenner said of efforts to eliminate them from the island. “They are incredibly bad.”

In California, the Argentine ant is the most common ant found in urban areas, the report says.

“A lot of people will see them here in their kitchens,” Faulkner said. When it rains, a line of tiny ants might show up indoors. Or when it’s dry, they can come in looking for moisture.

They form large, dense colonies with multiple queens. And unlike native species, they don’t fight one another, which would help control the size of the population.

That’s part of why they’ve been as successful as they have in the United States and elsewhere, Faulkner said.

People are most likely to see the workers. Queens — the ones producing new generations — tend to stay under the surface, and workers carry food back to them.

“We need the workers to take the bait back to the queen,” Faulkner said. That means producing bait that won’t kill the worker before that happens.

After lab and field tests, the proposal calls for using a low-toxicity, sugary bait. When it has absorbed moisture, the gel-like ball is about as big as a marble.

During a pilot study, some island foxes were seen eating bait, but showed no effects from consuming it, the report says.

If the project is OK’d, plans call for treating areas, mostly by helicopter, from June to September, when the ants are typically most active.

Measures also will be in place to reduce the risk of any ants getting back to the island, from rules for equipment brought there to those prohibiting any unfinished wood.

With any ecological restoration, the most critical part “is to make sure we don’t reintroduce something we’ve already eliminated, or introduce something new,” Faulkner said.

Comments on the proposal must be submitted by Feb. 22. They can be submitted online at http://parkplanning.nps.gov/ArgentineAnts or by mail to Superintendent, Channel Islands National Park, Attn: Argentine Ant Project, 1901 Spinnaker Drive, Ventura, Calif., 93001.

Goat not down with synagogue fundraiser

Ventura County Star - Local News - January 25, 2015 - 5:23pm

Charo, the goat, wasn’t in a particularly cooperative mood at Temple Ner Simcha’s fundraiser Sunday.

This wasn’t your typical charity event, mind you. Taking a concept previously used to great success by a college athletic department, the Conejo Valley synagogue sold about 500 “plop” tickets at $20 apiece which corresponded with sections of a grid marked on a field at Triunfo Community Park in Thousand Oaks.

The idea was to walk Charo onto the grid and have her defecate on three of the sections of her choosing. Whoever bought the tickets that matched the squares would win prizes, including the grand prize, a two-night stay at a four-star Las Vegas hotel.

Charo, however, wasn’t entirely down with the plan.

She quickly did her thing on one of the squares, then for the next 45 minutes — nothing.

“C’mon, Charo, poop already,” Rabbi Michael Barclay exhorted the goat as several dozen bemused synagogue members and supporters looked on.

His patience running out, the event’s self-described “Dean of Defecation,” Dave Binnick, announced it was time to go to Plan B.

Five dogs in attendance were walked onto the grid, but after about 15 minutes of sniffing around, they too couldn’t get the job done.

“It’s now become Plan E — the ball drop,” Binnick announced.

Four tykes were given a volleyball to throw onto the grid to determine the final two winners. This time, mission accomplished.

Barclay said the fundraiser, which netted the synagogue about $9,000, was done in a lighthearted spirit.

“Raising funds for charity is a drag, so we try to make it fun,” he said. “It doesn’t really matter what the activity is, so long as the community comes together and has a good time.”

Still, Barclay said, if the synagogue ever uses Charo for another fundraiser, “we might just have to make sure she’s better stimulated next time.”

Goat not down with synagogue fundraiser

Ventura County Star Top Stories - January 25, 2015 - 5:23pm

Charo, the goat, wasn’t in a particularly cooperative mood at Temple Ner Simcha’s fundraiser Sunday.

This wasn’t your typical charity event, mind you. Taking a concept previously used to great success by a college athletic department, the Conejo Valley synagogue sold about 500 “plop” tickets at $20 apiece which corresponded with sections of a grid marked on a field at Triunfo Community Park in Thousand Oaks.

The idea was to walk Charo onto the grid and have her defecate on three of the sections of her choosing. Whoever bought the tickets that matched the squares would win prizes, including the grand prize, a two-night stay at a four-star Las Vegas hotel.

Charo, however, wasn’t entirely down with the plan.

She quickly did her thing on one of the squares, then for the next 45 minutes — nothing.

“C’mon, Charo, poop already,” Rabbi Michael Barclay exhorted the goat as several dozen bemused synagogue members and supporters looked on.

His patience running out, the event’s self-described “Dean of Defecation,” Dave Binnick, announced it was time to go to Plan B.

Five dogs in attendance were walked onto the grid, but after about 15 minutes of sniffing around, they too couldn’t get the job done.

“It’s now become Plan E — the ball drop,” Binnick announced.

Four tykes were given a volleyball to throw onto the grid to determine the final two winners. This time, mission accomplished.

Barclay said the fundraiser, which netted the synagogue about $9,000, was done in a lighthearted spirit.

“Raising funds for charity is a drag, so we try to make it fun,” he said. “It doesn’t really matter what the activity is, so long as the community comes together and has a good time.”

Still, Barclay said, if the synagogue ever uses Charo for another fundraiser, “we might just have to make sure she’s better stimulated next time.”

Split Grows on Obama's Immigrant Tack

Wall Street Journal U.S. News - January 25, 2015 - 5:19pm
A growing number of cities and states have gotten involved in a federal lawsuit challenging President Barack Obama’s authority over immigration matters.

Two Home Depot Employees Killed in New York City

Wall Street Journal U.S. News - January 25, 2015 - 5:08pm
A shooting at a Home Depot store in Manhattan’s Flatiron District left two employees dead in what police said was a murder-suicide.

Origami brings T.O. kids into the fold

Ventura County Star - Local News - January 25, 2015 - 4:22pm

BiJian Fan stood in front of about 100 children on a recent Saturday afternoon in Thousand Oaks, folding a simple piece of paper into a flying cylinder.

“Whoa!” yelled the children as the shape — called a gyro cylinder — flew across to the other side of the room.

“Isn’t that cool? It’s very aerodynamic,” said Fan, an artist and retired engineer.

It was one of the many hands-on origami projects Fan taught the children Jan. 17 at the Grant R. Brimhall Library as part of a curriculum he developed called OMG, or Origami Math Genius.

The curriculum uses origami art to teach simple mathematical concepts, such as geometry and fractions, and more complicated concepts, such as spatial visualization and computer-aided design.

The free program was made possible in part by the Friends of the Thousand Oaks Library. It was one of several the library will be offering this year for children and teens on science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics or STEAM.

Fan, a Camarillo resident and a retired Amgen engineer with degrees in math and a doctorate in mechanical engineering, was born in Beijing, China, where he learned paper art from his grandmother. He now exhibits his origami creations both locally and internationally.

He teaches origami math at local schools, the Gull Wings Children’s Museum in Oxnard and elsewhere.

Fan explained that there are seven folds in origami, and that every fold is a geometric shape that can be mathematically defined in an equation.

“You can design origami art on the computer, and then print out a creased pattern that will guide you in folding,” he said.

Not only is origami used for contemporary art, he said, but it has also helped solve design problems for air bags, stents, robots and satellites.

Fan showed the students how to transform two-dimensional flat pieces of paper into 3-D objects. At the same time, with each fold, he taught them how to understand fractions and degrees of angles.

He also demonstrated the concepts of tangram, an ancient Chinese intelligence game that teaches children about square roots.

“At school, you have a lot of formulas to remember, but here you don’t need to memorize those formulas. You can use origami to find the size of each shape,” Fan said. “Some kids are not analytical. But once you give them something visual, they can figure it out.”

Victoria Pham and her friend, Kiana Bashardoost, both 9, created triangular shapes that were ultimately used to create a tower.

Bianca Bruno and Karolyn Barker, both 9, came to the demonstration to earn a Girl Scout badge.

Aditya Shenoy, 10, had done some origami before but wanted to learn more. He planned to design his own gyro cylinder at home.

Fan encouraged the children to do just that, and then see whose could fly the farthest.

He said the study of origami math is becoming more advanced and is being taught at some major universities. His OMG program has received a grant from Edison International, and he’s teaching educators to integrate origami art into their curriculum.

“It’s really fun,” said Candace Williams, 10. “It makes math more interesting.”

Origami brings T.O. kids into the fold

Ventura County Star Top Stories - January 25, 2015 - 4:22pm

BiJian Fan stood in front of about 100 children on a recent Saturday afternoon in Thousand Oaks, folding a simple piece of paper into a flying cylinder.

“Whoa!” yelled the children as the shape — called a gyro cylinder — flew across to the other side of the room.

“Isn’t that cool? It’s very aerodynamic,” said Fan, an artist and retired engineer.

It was one of the many hands-on origami projects Fan taught the children Jan. 17 at the Grant R. Brimhall Library as part of a curriculum he developed called OMG, or Origami Math Genius.

The curriculum uses origami art to teach simple mathematical concepts, such as geometry and fractions, and more complicated concepts, such as spatial visualization and computer-aided design.

The free program was made possible in part by the Friends of the Thousand Oaks Library. It was one of several the library will be offering this year for children and teens on science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics or STEAM.

Fan, a Camarillo resident and a retired Amgen engineer with degrees in math and a doctorate in mechanical engineering, was born in Beijing, China, where he learned paper art from his grandmother. He now exhibits his origami creations both locally and internationally.

He teaches origami math at local schools, the Gull Wings Children’s Museum in Oxnard and elsewhere.

Fan explained that there are seven folds in origami, and that every fold is a geometric shape that can be mathematically defined in an equation.

“You can design origami art on the computer, and then print out a creased pattern that will guide you in folding,” he said.

Not only is origami used for contemporary art, he said, but it has also helped solve design problems for air bags, stents, robots and satellites.

Fan showed the students how to transform two-dimensional flat pieces of paper into 3-D objects. At the same time, with each fold, he taught them how to understand fractions and degrees of angles.

He also demonstrated the concepts of tangram, an ancient Chinese intelligence game that teaches children about square roots.

“At school, you have a lot of formulas to remember, but here you don’t need to memorize those formulas. You can use origami to find the size of each shape,” Fan said. “Some kids are not analytical. But once you give them something visual, they can figure it out.”

Victoria Pham and her friend, Kiana Bashardoost, both 9, created triangular shapes that were ultimately used to create a tower.

Bianca Bruno and Karolyn Barker, both 9, came to the demonstration to earn a Girl Scout badge.

Aditya Shenoy, 10, had done some origami before but wanted to learn more. He planned to design his own gyro cylinder at home.

Fan encouraged the children to do just that, and then see whose could fly the farthest.

He said the study of origami math is becoming more advanced and is being taught at some major universities. His OMG program has received a grant from Edison International, and he’s teaching educators to integrate origami art into their curriculum.

“It’s really fun,” said Candace Williams, 10. “It makes math more interesting.”

Teams forming for Corporate Games

Ventura County Star Top Stories - January 25, 2015 - 3:54pm

The clock is ticking, counting down the days to the 2015 Corporate Games of Ventura, and companies around the county have only a couple more weeks to register for the six-week challenge.

Now in its 26th year, the Corporate Games offers businesses an opportunity to engage their employees in a series of sport contests and team-building activities in competition against other companies of similar size with trophies for the winners in each division.

Games Director Eric Burton, Park and Recreation supervisor for the city of Ventura, said the event drew 89 teams last year. He hopes to get as many if not more this year.

"We're just trying to get the word out that the Corporate Games are coming up, and it's a great way to build camaraderie and team spirit at a reasonable cost," said Burton. "We have companies coming back, and we're always looking to add new companies to our family."

Registration and event selection for the 2015 games opened on Jan. 5 and closes on Feb. 13. The competition gets underway March 28.

On Thursday, Burton will host a team coordinator meeting at Ventura City Hall at 6:30 p.m. He says that's a great time for newcomers to find out more about the Corporate Games and get tips from those who have been regular participants in previous years.

Teams sign up for a series of sport challenges and community service and "spirit" activities. The tournament culminates with a day at the beach on May 9, where gold, silver and bronze medals and trophies are handed out after the traditional last contests — tug of war and a sand castle competition.

Sporting challenges include basketball, beach volleyball, flag football, miniature golf, soccer, tennis, dodgeball, darts and billiards. Most competitions are held in and around Ventura.

This year, Lazertag is coming back, and the contests will be held at Lazertag Extreme in Simi Valley. Texas Hold ‘Em will become a special event, with all-speech Scrabble replacing it in the board games tournament alongside dominoes and spades.

Also new for 2015 is the location and date of the opening ceremony, a 5K run, walk and jog and a health and fitness expo. It will be at Ventura Community Park on South Kimball Road from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on a Saturday, March 28. Traditionally, it has taken place on the promenade in Ventura, next to the pier, after work on a Wednesday.

"By doing it on the weekend, it allows employees to come and bring their families with them, and it provides a more relaxed atmosphere," Burton said. "The aquatics center will be open, and there's a BMX racing track and we can have things for kids to do and highlight some of our recreation programs."

There also will be a corn hole fundraiser to benefit Operation Smile, which helps children with cleft palates, he said.

The motto for the 2015 Corporate Games is "It's Game Time!" and the event is open to businesses in Ventura, Santa Barbara and Los Angeles counties.

Teams are assigned to divisions based on the company's number of employees. Entry fees are also based on size.

Other activities during the six weeks include a T-shirt design contest and a photography competition.

For more information about the Corporate Games and to register online, go to www.cityofventura.net/corporategames or email Burton at eburton@cityofventura.net.

Teams forming for Corporate Games

Ventura County Star - Local News - January 25, 2015 - 3:54pm

The clock is ticking, counting down the days to the 2015 Corporate Games of Ventura, and companies around the county have only a couple more weeks to register for the six-week challenge.

Now in its 26th year, the Corporate Games offers businesses an opportunity to engage their employees in a series of sport contests and team-building activities in competition against other companies of similar size with trophies for the winners in each division.

Games Director Eric Burton, Park and Recreation supervisor for the city of Ventura, said the event drew 89 teams last year. He hopes to get as many if not more this year.

“We’re just trying to get the word out that the Corporate Games are coming up, and it’s a great way to build camaraderie and team spirit at a reasonable cost,” said Burton. “We have companies coming back, and we’re always looking to add new companies to our family.”

Registration and event selection for the 2015 games opened on Jan. 5 and closes on Feb. 13. The competition gets underway March 28.

On Thursday, Burton will host a team coordinator meeting at Ventura City Hall at 6:30 p.m. He says that’s a great time for newcomers to find out more about the Corporate Games and get tips from those who have been regular participants in previous years.

Teams sign up for a series of sport challenges and community service and “spirit” activities. The tournament culminates with a day at the beach on May 9, where gold, silver and bronze medals and trophies are handed out after the traditional last contests — tug of war and a sand castle competition.

Sporting challenges include basketball, beach volleyball, flag football, miniature golf, soccer, tennis, dodgeball, darts and billiards. Most competitions are held in and around Ventura.

This year, Lazertag is coming back, and the contests will be held at Lazertag Extreme in Simi Valley. Texas Hold ‘Em will become a special event, with all-speech Scrabble replacing it in the board games tournament alongside dominoes and spades.

Also new for 2015 is the location and date of the opening ceremony, a 5K run, walk and jog and a health and fitness expo. It will be at Ventura Community Park on South Kimball Road from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on a Saturday, March 28. Traditionally, it has taken place on the promenade in Ventura, next to the pier, after work on a Wednesday.

“By doing it on the weekend, it allows employees to come and bring their families with them, and it provides a more relaxed atmosphere,” Burton said. “The aquatics center will be open, and there’s a BMX racing track and we can have things for kids to do and highlight some of our recreation programs.”

There also will be a corn hole fundraiser to benefit Operation Smile, which helps children with cleft palates, he said.

The motto for the 2015 Corporate Games is “It’s Game Time!” and the event is open to businesses in Ventura, Santa Barbara and Los Angeles counties.

Teams are assigned to divisions based on the company’s number of employees. Entry fees are also based on size.

Other activities during the six weeks include a T-shirt design contest and a photography competition.

For more information about the Corporate Games and to register online, go to www.cityofventura.net/corporategames or email Burton at eburton@cityofventura.net.

The Lost Season of Duke's Coach K

Wall Street Journal U.S. News - January 25, 2015 - 3:42pm
Long before he reached 1,000 career wins on Sunday, Mike Krzyzewski briefly walked away from his team 20 years ago—and it changed everything.

Ventura rated a 'good' place to live

Ventura County Star - Local News - January 25, 2015 - 3:24pm

The city of Ventura used to regularly poll residents, interested to know how they felt about city spending, whether it provides adequate services and what it could do better.

Those surveys ended in 2009, precipitated by budget cuts.

Now it’s back, and the results seem to demonstrate residents are generally happy with life in Ventura, city employees and elected officials. They just would like to see more done about things like the drought, roads, jobs and above all, homelessness.

On Monday night, the City Council will hear the survey results.

A Santa Monica-based public opinion research firm conducted the telephone surveys with a random sample of 400 registered voters from Nov. 6-10. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percentage points.

The survey was an opportunity to gauge if the community was pleased with services the city offers, and if the city does a good job providing them, City Manager Mark Watkins said.

“We were very happy with results of the survey in general. We’re providing good services and using taxpayer money in a good way,” he said.

A strong majority of respondents, 74 percent, felt Ventura was headed in the right direction, and 93 percent called Ventura an “excellent” or “good” place to live, the survey found.

When asked in an open-ended format what the most important issue facing the city was, homelessness emerged at the top. But when given a list of issues, the drought emerged as a “very serious” or “somewhat serious” issue for 92 percent of those polled. Homelessness followed at 87 percent, and drugs and drug abuse came next at 75 percent.

For the first time in five years, the city of Ventura surveyed its residents on quality-of-life issues. For the most part, residents like how the city is doing.

  • 74 percent: Feel Ventura is generally headed in the right direction
  • 47 percent: Rate the city as an “excellent” place to live
  • 70 percent: Called the drought a “very serious” problem
  • 53 percent: Called homelessness a “very serious” problem
  • 75 percent: Called drugs and drug abuse a “very serious” problem
  • 65 percent: Agreed Ventura provides better services than other cities
  • 67 percent: Agreed Ventura uses tax dollars wisely.

Around two-thirds of respondents agreed the city uses tax dollars wisely, which is a “high rate of agreement for a city regarding the use of tax dollars,” the administrative report says.

The city didn’t rank as high on some of its services, including programs to protect open space and natural areas (37 percent felt satisfied); ones to attract and retain businesses (19 percent); and ones to prevent homelessness (14 percent).

Watkins said the council could do numerous things with the information when the item comes up for discussion, including directing staff to look deeper into what services residents want and how to offer them.

The firm that conducted the poll will be at Monday’s meeting and provide information on how Ventura’s results rank alongside other cities, Watkins said.

Monday’s meeting starts at 6 p.m. at City Hall, 501 Poli St.

Ventura rated a 'good' place to live

Ventura County Star Top Stories - January 25, 2015 - 3:24pm

The city of Ventura used to regularly poll residents, interested to know how they felt about city spending, whether it provides adequate services and what it could do better.

Those surveys ended in 2009, precipitated by budget cuts.

Now it’s back, and the results seem to demonstrate residents are generally happy with life in Ventura, city employees and elected officials. They just would like to see more done about things like the drought, roads, jobs and above all, homelessness.

On Monday night, the City Council will hear the survey results.

A Santa Monica-based public opinion research firm conducted the telephone surveys with a random sample of 400 registered voters from Nov. 6-10. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percentage points.

The survey was an opportunity to gauge if the community was pleased with services the city offers, and if the city does a good job providing them, City Manager Mark Watkins said.

“We were very happy with results of the survey in general. We’re providing good services and using taxpayer money in a good way,” he said.

A strong majority of respondents, 74 percent, felt Ventura was headed in the right direction, and 93 percent called Ventura an “excellent” or “good” place to live, the survey found.

When asked in an open-ended format what the most important issue facing the city was, homelessness emerged at the top. But when given a list of issues, the drought emerged as a “very serious” or “somewhat serious” issue for 92 percent of those polled. Homelessness followed at 87 percent, and drugs and drug abuse came next at 75 percent.

For the first time in five years, the city of Ventura surveyed its residents on quality-of-life issues. For the most part, residents like how the city is doing.

  • 74 percent: Feel Ventura is generally headed in the right direction
  • 47 percent: Rate the city as an “excellent” place to live
  • 70 percent: Called the drought a “very serious” problem
  • 53 percent: Called homelessness a “very serious” problem
  • 75 percent: Called drugs and drug abuse a “very serious” problem
  • 65 percent: Agreed Ventura provides better services than other cities
  • 67 percent: Agreed Ventura uses tax dollars wisely.

Around two-thirds of respondents agreed the city uses tax dollars wisely, which is a “high rate of agreement for a city regarding the use of tax dollars,” the administrative report says.

The city didn’t rank as high on some of its services, including programs to protect open space and natural areas (37 percent felt satisfied); ones to attract and retain businesses (19 percent); and ones to prevent homelessness (14 percent).

Watkins said the council could do numerous things with the information when the item comes up for discussion, including directing staff to look deeper into what services residents want and how to offer them.

The firm that conducted the poll will be at Monday’s meeting and provide information on how Ventura’s results rank alongside other cities, Watkins said.

Monday’s meeting starts at 6 p.m. at City Hall, 501 Poli St.

Class, celebration and other events planned

Ventura County Star Top Stories - January 25, 2015 - 3:18pm

Camarillo

Class will address energy, weight loss

The Camarillo Health Care District will offer a class on thyroid, energy and weight loss from 6-7:30 p.m. Feb. 2 at 3639 E. Las Posas Road, suite E-117.

Dr. Steven Tenenbaum will lead the class.

Cost is $10 for Camarillo and Somis residents and $14 for others. Call 388-1952, ext. 100, to register.

Port Hueneme

Ambassadors to check on licenses

Ventura County Animal Services license ambassadors will go door to door in Port Hueneme on Saturday and Sunday to check that pet owners are up to date on licensing requirements.

The cost for a Ventura County animal license is $20 for spayed/neutered animals — with proof of sterility — or $75 for unaltered animals.

For more information, visit http://www.vcas.us or call 388-4341.

Thousand Oaks

Volunteers can help maintain garden

The Conejo Valley Botanic Garden seeks volunteers to help groom the garden and remove nonnative invasive plants at 9:30 a.m. Saturday at 400 W. Gainsborough Road.

Adults and youth under 18 with an adult supervisor are welcome. Volunteers should bring a hat, gloves, water and sturdy shoes. To register, email conejogarden350@live.com.

Public can celebrate Chinese New Year

The public can help celebrate the Chinese New Year from 3-4 p.m. Saturday at the Grant R. Brimhall Library, 1401 E. Janss Road.

There will be a musical program and the special dragon dance.

Event is free. Call 449-2660 for more information.

Public can apply for spot on commission

The Conejo Recreation and Park District will accept applications for people who want to serve on the board of commissioners for the Goebel Adult Community Center.

Commissioners must be 50 or older and live within district boundaries. Individuals should know about recreation and social needs and interests of senior adults and community resources.

Call 495-6471 for more information.

Two Camps Emerge Among 2016 Republican Hopefuls

Wall Street Journal U.S. News - January 25, 2015 - 3:17pm
Signs emerged here this weekend that the 2016 Republican presidential field is dividing into two camps: candidates focused on grass-roots support, and others who will rely on big-donor funding.

President Obama seeks designation for Alaska

Ventura County Star Top Stories - January 25, 2015 - 2:04pm

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — President Barack Obama is proposing to designate the vast majority of Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as a wilderness area, including its potentially oil-rich coastal plain, drawing an angry response from top state elected officials who see it as a land grab by the federal government.

"They've decided that today was the day that they were going to declare war on Alaska. Well, we are ready to engage," said U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and chair of the Senate energy committee.

The designation would seal off the area in Alaska's northeast corner from oil exploration and give it the highest degree of federal protection available to public lands.
 

The refuge's coastal plain has long been at the center of the struggle between conservationists and advocates of greater energy exploration in the U.S. Political leaders in Alaska have supported drilling and opposed attempts to further restrict development on federal lands, which comprise about two-thirds of the state.

A bipartisan resolution passed the state Legislature last year, urging Congress to allow for exploration and development on the coastal plain. A federal lawsuit brought by the state over the Interior Department's refusal to consider a proposed exploration plan for the refuge's coastal plain is pending.

The Republican congressional delegation, along with Alaska's new governor, Bill Walker, sent out a joint news release Sunday morning calling the action "an unprecedented assault on Alaska." Walker changed his GOP affiliation to undeclared in running for office last year.

In a White House video released Sunday, Obama said he is seeking the designation "so we can make sure that this amazing wonder is preserved for future generations."

The Interior Department issued a comprehensive plan Sunday that for the first time recommended the additional protections. If Congress agrees, it would be the largest wilderness designation since passage of the Wilderness Act in the 1960s, the agency said.
 

However, the proposal is likely to face stiff resistance in the Republican-controlled Congress. Murkowski said in an interview that Obama is going after something "that is not possible in this Congress." She said she sees it as an attempt by the administration to "score some environmental points" and to rile passions ahead of another announcement by Interior in the coming days that Murkowski said she was told would propose putting off-limits to development certain areas of the offshore Arctic.

Murkowski spoke with Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and Jewell's chief of staff in the last few days, she said.

An Interior Department spokeswoman, responding by email Sunday, did not offer details but said a proposed five-year offshore drilling plan is forthcoming and that environmental reviews of lease areas in the Arctic waters off Alaska's shores are underway.

The department pegged the timing of Obama's announcement to recent legislation proposed in Congress. Earlier this month, U.S. Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, introduced a bill that would allow for development on the coastal plain. Murkowski referenced the refuge — and the economic benefits that she said could come from tapping a part of the refuge — in an energy-focused Republican weekly address on Saturday.

Young, in a statement, called the proposed wilderness delegation a violation of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act and "disgusting."

"Simply put, this wholesale land grab, this widespread attack on our people and our way of life, is disgusting," he said.

Conservation groups hailed Obama's announcement.

David Houghton, president of the National Wildlife Refuge Association, said in a statement released by conservation and some Native organizations that the refuge's coastal plain "is one of the last places on earth that has been undisturbed by humans, and we owe it to our children and their children to permanently protect this invaluable resource."

___

Jim Kuhnhenn contributed to this report from Washington, D.C.

 

US gas prices fell, but expected to rise

Ventura County Star Top Stories - January 25, 2015 - 1:46pm

CAMARILLO, Calif. (AP) — The average price of a regular gallon of gas dropped 13 cents in the past two weeks to $2.07, but it could soon rise.

Industry analyst Trilby Lundberg said Sunday that the lowest prices in more than five years are likely to increase because of rising wholesale prices.

Lundberg says rising costs of crude oil the past 10 days should eventually be seen at the pump.

San Francisco continued to have the highest-priced gas in the Lower 48 states at $2.54 a gallon. Albuquerque, New Mexico, remained lowest at $1.73 a gallon.

Lundberg says prices at the pump are $1.24 lower than this time last year.

The average price in California was $2.43 a gallon.

The average national price for midgrade gas is $2.31. For premium, it's $2.47.

Bird flu found at Foster Farms California ranch

Ventura County Star Top Stories - January 25, 2015 - 1:42pm

LIVINGSTON, Calif. (AP) — Hundreds of turkeys at a Central California ranch are being killed to prevent the spread of a type of avian flu that is not a threat to people but can decimate poultry flocks.

Foster Farms announced on Saturday that routine food safety screening uncovered the flu outbreak at the Stanislaus County ranch, which was quarantined in keeping with U.S. Department of Agriculture policies.

The Modesto Bee reports (http://bit.ly/1yZ6ujG) that federal agriculture officials identified the strain of bird flu virus as H5N8, which health experts says carries almost no health risk for humans.

The same strain infected a backyard flock of chickens and guinea fowl in Southern Oregon last month.

Another type of bird flu, H5N1, can infect humans although it is not easily spread.

Foster Farms says no turkey products have been affected by the outbreak.

SAG Awards to offer Oscar preview

Ventura County Star Top Stories - January 25, 2015 - 1:37pm

The 21st annual Screen Actors Guild Awards should offer a low-key preview to the Academy Awards and a chance for favorites to begin polishing up their acceptance speeches.

The show kicks off Sunday night at 8 p.m. EST from the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. The two-hour ceremony will be broadcast live on TNT and TBS. Vying for the evening's top honor, best ensemble, are: "Birdman," ''Boyhood," ''The Grand Budapest Hotel," ''The Imitation Game" and "The Theory of Everything."

Because actors make up the largest portion of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, the SAG Awards are considered one of the most telling Oscar previews. Individually acting winners usually mirror each other exactly, or very nearly. Last year, the top four winners — Matthew McConaughey, Cate Blanchett, Lupita Nyong'o, Jared Leto — all went on to win Academy Awards after first scooping up SAG awards.
 

This year, there appears to be three fairly certain locks: Julianne Moore ("Still Alice"), Patricia Arquette ("Boyhood") and J.K. Simmons ("Whiplash"). Best actor is harder to call, with Michael Keaton ("Birdman") seen as the front-runner and Eddie Redmayne ("The Theory of Everything") close behind.

The predictive powers of the SAGs have been more checkered in matching its top award with eventual best-picture Oscar winners. In the last six years, SAG best-ensemble and Academy Award best-picture winners have lined up three times ("Argo," ''The King's Speech" and "Slumdog Millionaire"), while diverging just as often. Last year, the actors chose "American Hustle" over eventual Oscar winner "12 Years a Slave"; in 2011, they picked "The Help" over "The Artist"; and in 2009, "Inglourious Basterds" defeated "The Hurt Locker."
 

Though movie categories will dominate the evening, the SAGs also honor television.

The ensemble comedy nominees are: "Modern Family," ''The Big Bang Theory," ''Brooklyn Nine-Nine," ''Orange is the New Black" and "Veep." Ensemble drama nominees were "Downton Abbey," ''Homeland," ''Boardwalk Empire," ''Game of Thrones" and "House of Cards."

This year's lifetime achievement award will go to Debbie Reynolds, the 82-year-old veteran of stage and screen and, of course, "Singin' in the Rain."

 

'American Sniper' holds top spot at weekend box

Ventura County Star Top Stories - January 25, 2015 - 1:33pm

LOS ANGELES (AP) — "American Sniper" hit the mark with moviegoers again.

The military drama starring Bradley Cooper as Navy SEAL marksman Chris Kyle topped the box office for a second weekend in a row with $64.4 million in first place, according to studio estimates Sunday.

"American Sniper" is up for six Academy Awards, including best picture and best actor for Cooper. The total haul for the Warner Bros. film now stands at $200.1 million.
 

"We've never quite seen anything like this at this time of year," said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at box-office tracker Rentrak. "'American Sniper' is helping to propel the box office, which is already 9.3 percent ahead of the same time last year."

The film, directed by Clint Eastwood, already broke box-office records when it expanded to wide release last weekend, easily surpassing "Avatar" to become the biggest January opening for a movie and immediately becoming the top grosser among best-picture Oscar nominees.

In a distant second place, the saucy Universal thriller "The Boy Next Door" featuring Jennifer Lopez as a teacher who engages in an affair with a younger man played by Ryan Guzman, debuted with $15 million.

The weekend's other major new releases weren't even in the neighborhood of "The Boy Next Door."

The animated fantasy "Strange Magic" from Luscasfilm and Disney flopped in seventh place with $5.5 million.

Lionsgate's Johnny Depp dud "Mortdecai" tanked in ninth place with $4.1 million. The eccentric heist comedy, which also stars Gwyneth Paltrow, marks another box-office bomb for Depp, following the leading man's disappointing "Transcendence," ''The Lone Ranger," ''Dark Shadows" and "The Rum Diary."


"I think he chooses projects that appeal to him," Dergarabedian said. "I've always appreciated Johnny Depp for marching to the beat of his own drum, but he still needs to get audiences in the door. Sometimes, if you go too far afield, that's reflected in the numbers."

__

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Rentrak. Where available, the latest international numbers are also included. Final domestic figures will be released Monday.

1. "American Sniper," $64.4 million.

2. "The Boy Next Door," $15 million.

3. "Paddington," $12.4 million.

4. "The Wedding Ringer," $11.6 million.

5. "Taken 3," $7.6 million.

6. "The Imitation Game," $7.1 million.

7. "Strange Magic" $5.5 million.

8. "Selma," $5.5 million.

9. "Mortdecai," $4.1 million.

10. "Into the Woods," $3.9 million.

___

Universal and Focus are owned by NBC Universal, a unit of Comcast Corp.; Sony, Columbia, Sony Screen Gems and Sony Pictures Classics are units of Sony Corp.; Paramount is owned by Viacom Inc.; Disney, Pixar and Marvel are owned by The Walt Disney Co.; Miramax is owned by Filmyard Holdings LLC; 20th Century Fox and Fox Searchlight are owned by 21st Century Fox; Warner Bros. and New Line are units of Time Warner Inc.; MGM is owned by a group of former creditors including Highland Capital, Anchorage Advisors and Carl Icahn; Lionsgate is owned by Lions Gate Entertainment Corp.; IFC is owned by AMC Networks Inc.; Rogue is owned by Relativity Media LLC.
 

 

Books of The Times: ‘Guantánamo Diary’ by Mohamedou Ould Slahi

NY Times Books - January 25, 2015 - 12:03pm
Mohamedou Ould Slahi’s memoir, “Guantánamo Diary,” was published after a seven-year legal battle and with heavy redactions from military censors.






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