THE MENDOCINO COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE has formally identified the victim of a shooting near a Spy Rock Road pot garden as Upper Lake resident Hugo Olea-Lopez, 23. Olea-Lopez was found dead of a single gunshot wound to the torso on Monday, June 17. The Sheriff’s department believes he had been camping and tending about 300 budding pot plants being grown in two temporary greenhouses. It remains unclear why or by whom he was killed, although an anonymous someone connected to the incident called a family member to report the slaying, leading to the discovery of his death. The pot plants in the vicinity appeared to have been cut prior to the arrival of investigators.
A PROTESTER CALLING HIMSELF “Red Tail Hawk” climbed a huge construction crane on Wednesday to hang a banner saying “NO BYPASS.” The crane is the primary piece of equipment which is installing the incomprehensible 55,000 “wick drains” up to 150 feet deep which are supposed to somehow keep the earth under the bypass kinda dry by soaking up moisture and evaporating it. The process is experimental and hazardous to the general flow of water in Little Lake Valley. Red Tail Hawk’s crane occupation was part of a larger protest to block the wick-drain equipment comprising some 50 people, five of whom were arrested for trespassing. (Note: “Red Tail Hawk” is the nom de guerre of AVA contributor Will Parrish.) Among those arrested Wednesday was Naomi (not Namoi) Wagner.
SAME OLD HAL. Hal Titen once rode high as a program director at the Mendocino Office of Education. In his off hours, which then and now is most of the time at MCOE for its laughably overlarge cadre of administrators, Titen ran a bar on North State Street, Ukiah. He was tardily arrested when an underage girl revealed that Titen was using school video equipment to make pornographic films featuring her in the back room of his bar. The video equipment had been purchased by MCOE for instructional use and for public television broadcasting for inland Mendocino County, which was also run by Titen. MCOE had glommed on to public tv and, as we now know, Titen, whose idea of dynamic viewing was NASA weather photos, killed it at inception.
TITEN was subsequently packed off to the State Pen on a chomo conviction, a condition of which is mandatory registration as a sex offender. A month ago, Titen was arrested and booked into the County Jail for failing to register. And here he is again in and out of jail for failing to register or a related offense. It will be interesting to see if the judge lets him slide. Again.
MCOE has been a sleazy operation for many years, having veered from the paths of righteousness in the early 1970s under the late Lou Delsol. Delsol hired Titen, another crook named Jack Ward, and present superintendent, Paul Tichinin, who worked under Titen. These people, of course, hire people like themselves, and their net effect on the Mendo educational effort has been baleful, as versions of Tichinin occupy the high-pay edu-slots everywhere in the County. You don't have to look farther than Mendoland to understand why California's public schools are among the worst in the nation.
ALLOW ME to break this particular record one more time: The Mendocino County Office of Education doesn't do a single thing that the individual school districts of Mendocino County could not do better and cheaper — for those things that really need to be done. MCOE is a relic of the 19th century when it served as a hiring hall for vast Mendocino's one-room schoolhouses. Then it did payroll for the County's individual school districts, but remained small with the Superintendent and the usual several intelligent women doing the real work of paymaster. But then, when all kinds of nebulously aimed (and unsupervised) state and federal dough rolled out to MCOE headquarters in Talmage beginning in the early 1970s, MCOE metatasized to the massive scam we see out there today.
MEANWHILE IN SACRAMENTO, Wes Chesbro et al, from the governor through all the state's officeholders, will get 5% pay raises beginning in December, putting most of them at an average take of $95,000 a year.
They also get $141 per diem which some selfless souls choose not to take.
And nice health insurance policies covering them and their families.
State legislators, however, don't get retirement.
DEBBIE L. HOLMER, archivist of the Fort Bragg Advocate, remembers that 102 years ago, June 20th, 1911, “Jack London, the celebrated novelist, accompanied by his wife and a Japanese servant, drove into town behind four little ponies. The North Bay Counties Association has engaged this prominent writer to write an article for Sunset Magazine, boosting the resources of the seven counties. After a short visit, Mr. London left for Eureka Tuesday afternoon and intends to make a complete tour of the seven counties collecting data for his articles. This makes Jack's second visit to Fort Bragg. He passed through here on horseback for the first time shortly after the great earthquake and states that he is surprised to see the rapid strides of improvement our little city has made in the last few years.”
IS THE MEXICAN GOVERNMENT FAILING TO PROTECT JOURNALISTS? Anabel Hernandez Thinks So, And Fears For Her Life
By Jason McGahan
Anabel Hernandez is one of the most decorated journalists in Mexico, and currently reports for the weekly news magazine Proceso and the online magazine Reporte Indigo. She's been on the radar of the most powerful corrupt law enforcement officials in the country since at least 2008, when she published her first expose on Genaro Garcia Luna, the head of Mexico's equivalent of the FBI and then-president Felipe Calderone's right-hand man in the drug war. She revealed he owned lavish homes and vast amounts of property that far exceeded what could be bought with the salary of a humble public servant.
She followed that up, in 2010, with Los Senores del Narco, a 588-page history of the Mexican drug mafia that exposed, in exhaustive detail, the crimes of Garcia Luna and his inner circle of corrupt officials. (That book is being translated into English by Verso Press and will be available in September under the title Narcoland: The Mexican Drug Lords and Their Godfathers.) Sources in the federal police warned her soon afterward that Mexico's top cop was plotting to have her murdered and make it look like an accident.
Anabel alerted the authorities in Mexico City, and they've been providing her and her two children with 24-hour armed protection ever since—until now, that is. On April 26, she received a letter from the government of Mexico City informing her that her armed escort would be revoked at some point in June (no date was specified in the letter). Her protection, she was told, will become the responsibility of the same federal police whose top officials she believes are the ones behind the death threats and attacks against her life, not to mention the jailing, intimidation, and in some cases even assassination of her sources.
I recently reached her by telephone in Los Angeles, where she was on tour to promote her newest book, Mexico en Llamas: El Legado de Calderon (“Mexico in Flames: The Legacy of Felipe Calderon”), and asked her about the danger she's in and the Mexican government's total lack of effort to protect journalists like her. [Interview has been translated from Spanish.]
VICE: Could you tell me about the threats made against you because of your work?
Anabel Hernandez: In 2008 I began investigating a clique of Mexican police officers, all with more than 20 years of service, who are deeply implicated in criminal activities like kidnapping and drug trafficking. Since then, I've been targeted by this group of cops headed by Genaro Garci Luna, Luis Cardenas Palomino, and Facundo Rosas Rosas.
The first thing they did was threaten to kill me and incarcerate those who were my sources of information. I was publishing, for example, investigations into the criminal past of Luis Cardenas Palomino, who was one of the main chiefs of police in Felipe Calderon's government. I also published stories about the homes and properties that Genaro Garcia Luna owned and how far beyond his policeman's salary they were. Plenty of people say that that money came to him from organized crime. I also published items about how federal police officers, on orders from Garcia Luna, carried out kidnappings, like in the well-known case of Fernando Marti, the [14-year-old] hostage who was murdered in 2008. The policemen who kidnapped him were very close to Garcia Luna. They worked for the federal police directly, in the anti-kidnapping unit. Only instead of preventing kidnappings, they carried them out.
All of those investigations that I published over the course of five years made these corrupt policemen very angry. Then in 2010 I published Los Senores del Narco. In December 2010, I got a tip from police sources of mine who warned me of a plot being hatched to have me killed. One of my sources told me that he had just come from a meeting in which Garcia Luna tried assigning members of a federal police unit to carry out my assassination and faking an accident or kidnapping or robbery—they'd kill me and in exchange he was going to give them better salaries and higher posts in the government. Thanks to that tip I had enough time to protect myself—if I hadn't found out from the policeman, I certainly wouldn't be here now. I'd be just another journalist executed in Mexico. When I got that tip, I immediately brought a complaint to the National Commission on Human Rights, and the human rights commission went with me to the office of the district attorney in Mexico City, which opened a case file and quickly assigned me an armed security detail.
I've lived with bodyguards 24 hours a day for the past two years. It's what has allowed me to keep working and remain safe.
In January 2011, two men aimed pistols at my daughters. They threatened my family with guns—not stealing anything, mind you, because the only purpose was to terrorize them. The message became clear to me after that night. It was: we can do whatever we want, whenever we want, to whatever it is you care about the most. My family has lived under armed guard ever since that attack to protect their lives.
Over the past two years I myself have also been physically threatened. For example, at a restaurant in January 2010 I was accosted by a man wearing a hoodie. My bodyguards had to rush in and get me out of there. I managed to take a photo of the man who threatened me and chased after me, but the authorities didn't investigate it any further.
In May of 2012 a source of mine was kidnapped and tortured by the federal authorities in order to force him to make false accusations against me. Other sources of mine have been jailed, still others have been murdered. And I get word from people who are close to Garcia Luna that he hasn't given up his plan to have me killed. I've been informed that Garcia Luna has commented to more than one person that I was his worst enemy, that he was going to get rid of me. And to be honest, it's not a fair fight. I'm just a journalist. This man is one of the most powerful men in Mexico—because he is so corrupt, because he is the leader of a group of corrupt police that has been around for 20 years. And basically I've gone beyond trying to comprehend it. I am incapable of understanding how a public servant can think that a journalist and her pen are more dangerous than all of the cartels he's supposedly combating.
What's your opinion on the procedures that are in place to protect journalists in Mexico?
My experience with the whole process has been terrible. Now I understand why they keep killing journalists in Mexico, and why others choose to flee the country. The money spent on paying for it is money wasted. On April 26, I went to a meeting with the Secretary of the Interior and I criticized the process for its lack of commitment. [The government seems to think] that the law enforces itself, without any effort necessary from the men and women sworn to enforce it. It has become clear to me that the [Journalist Protection Program] is being used simply to put on a show for the outside world. It's a means to save face internationally. Keeping up international relations is more important than addressing freedom of expression.
It's obvious to me that these government institutions are only good for simulating a concern for journalists' lives. But the truth is that my case put them to the test, and now I have a better understanding of what the rest of my colleagues are facing. The procedures in place for protecting journalists are nothing more than the appearance of concern, because this government—not the outgoing government of Felipe Calderon, not the incoming government of Enrique Pena Nieto—has no interest in either solving the murders of journalists or protecting them while they continue working in the country. I'm worried because they know that my life is in danger and even so they want to take away my security detail. I'm worried that the real objective is to force me to flee the country—because how convenient would it be for everyone if a journalist who asks tough questions, who won't shut her mouth, were forced to run away crying to another country instead of continuing the struggle for freedom of expression and continuing to publish in Mexico?
I'm not leaving Mexico. If something happens to me and I become another name on the long list of murdered journalists, it won't be because of any failure of mine, but the failure of the Mexican government that refused to protect me. It's an institution, a whole government, that can't even protect its journalists—it's not that it can't, but that it doesn't want to.
What is the extent of the security provided to you by the Journalist Protection Program?
The bodyguards I have are from the district attorney's office in Mexico City. That is the only tangible, real, concrete benefit I've received from any ministry in the Mexican government. That's why I was requesting that they please not take them away from me, because that's the only thing that has kept me in Mexico in recent years in spite of the death threats. I've been physically targeted in the past two years, my family has been attacked, and more threats have come recently. I think the plots to harm me establish there is a clear danger in removing my police protection. That's why it's important that I keep it. As for the agency headed run the federal government, they haven't followed up on any leads. The only thing they've given me is a so-called panic button that is nothing more than a telephone number to call if someone is trying to kidnap me or shooting at me. It does nothing to aid in the pursuit of the attackers, it does nothing to protect me, and nothing to prevent the attack. The panic button's only purpose is that if I'm being attacked, killed, or kidnapped, snatched off the street like so many thousands have been in Mexico, I can call that phone number if I have the chance—though of course if [the attackers] take the phone out of my hands I won't have anything to call with. What I mean to say is that the protection program is a joke, and the whole world might as well know it.
Why are they removing your security detail?
I should say that I entered into the Journalist Protection Program last March at the suggestion of the Secretary of the Interior, which came after the district attorney's office in Mexico City recused itself, after two years, from the investigation into the threats and the assassination plots against my life. So my case ended up in the hands of the [federal] office of the attorney general.
I should also point out that by then I had already filed a criminal complaint against Genaro Garcia Luna as the culprit in the threats made against my family in 2011, independently of the complaint I'd brought to Mexico City authorities in 2010. When the Mexico City authorities recused themselves from my case, and the whole investigation shifted over to the federal authorities, I asked the attorney general's office to show me my file for the first time. That was how I learned firsthand that the attorney general's office hadn't lifted a finger to investigate my case in a year and a half. Nothing. They hadn't investigated a thing, hadn't interviewed a single person, hadn't even followed up on the leads that I had given them about people who had harassed me. So to enroll in the Journalist Protection Program was my only option.
If the Mexico City authorities take away my security detail, all that the federal government has to offer me is protection from the federal police, which is stupid, illogical, and absurd in the extreme—these are the same federal police who are under the command of Garcia Luna. They're delivering my head into the hands of those that most want me dead. To me, protection from the federal police is not an option. So I'm asking for the Mexico City police to continue providing for my protection.
The Journalist Protection Program was supposed to clear up this situation. At a meeting on April 26 attended by the Secretary of the Interior, the Mexico City government, the UN, the office of the attorney general, and the protection program itself, they vowed to continue providing for my protection, leaving only the investigation in the hands of the federal authorities. However, the protection program informed me a week ago by mail that it was going to withdraw my security detail in June, without telling me what day or time. And this in spite of the fact that the same protection program acknowledged—this was told to me over the phone by its director, Juan Carlos Gutierrez—“Anabel, your level of risk, according to our assessment, is high.”
To me it indicates one of two things: either the federal government wants me dead or wants me gone. And of course neither of those options is viable to me.
What conclusions should we draw from your experience with the Journalist Protection Program?
I know based on what I have lived through that the federal government doesn't care about punishing those who make threats against journalists. The government has no interest in putting in prison the assassins who murder journalists. The government that allows this to happen is as guilty as whoever ends up pulling the trigger. I'm not sure I'm making myself clear: The government, if it wanted to, could lock up every murderer of every one of the 90 journalists killed in the past 12 years. The government, if it wanted to, could scare Garcia Luna, put him in jail for all the threats and for all the harm he's caused in the past five years. It doesn't do so because it doesn't want to. It prefers a dead journalist to a corrupt policeman in prison. (Courtesy, vice.com)
A READER WRITES: “I got this notice from Blue Shield last week and don’t really know what to make of it, other than giggle nervously. Obviously, it does not apply to me. The notice is from Jeff Smith, VP & General Manager of Individual and Family Plans, Blue Shield of California, 50 Beale Street, San Francisco, CA 94105, and is dated April 22, 2013: ‘I am writing to provide you with information about a change to the Policy for your health plan effective July 1, 2013. Due to a mandate from the California Department of Insurance, coverage for medical services related to gender transition will not be denied if coverage is available for those services when not related to gender transition. Health services that are ordinarily available to individuals of only one sex will not be denied solely due to the fact the person is enrolled as the other sex. Enclosed is an endorsement to your policy which clarifies this change. For future reference, please keep this endorsement with the Policy that was in the Blue Shield plan updates book we recently mailed to you. If you have questions, please contact our Customer Service representative at the number listed on your member ID card’.”
ASSOCIATED PRESS REPORTS: A panel of federal judges on Thursday rejected Gov. Jerry Brown's attempt to circumvent its long-standing order for reducing California's prison population, the latest step in an ongoing legal drama over how to improve inmates' medical and mental health care inmates.
Brown quickly announced that he will ask the courts to stay what he called an “unprecedented order to release almost 10,000 inmates by the end of this year.” The governor already filed notice that he intends to appeal the latest order to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The judges stopped just short of citing the Democratic governor for contempt of court, but again threatened to do so if he does not immediately comply with their latest order.
The plan submitted by the Brown administration in May to further reduce the inmate population failed to meet the judges' mandate because it fell short of the court-ordered population cap by 2,300 inmates, the judges said in their 51-page order. That previous population reduction order has been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.
The judges reiterated in their sharply worded ruling that the governor must comply with the original order to reduce the population to 110,000 inmates by the end of the year. They ordered Brown to take all the steps he outlined in May, as well as one more step — the expansion of good-time credits leading to early release. Brown had offered that as an option, but it was not one he was willing to embrace.
The governor's plan for getting closer to the required level called for sending more inmates to firefighting camps, leasing cells at county jails, slowing the return of thousands of inmates now housed in private prisons in other states, increasing early release credits for nonviolent inmates and paroling elderly felons.
The judges ordered the administration to implement all the measures regardless of whether they conflict with state or local laws.
At issue is how far the state must go in reducing its inmate population to meet a previous court order to improve medical and mental health treatment. The courts have said that prison overcrowding is the main cause of care that fails to meet the constitutional guarantee against cruel and unusual punishment.
The order leaves Brown with no more excuses, said Don Specter, director of the nonprofit Prison Law Office and one of the lead attorneys representing inmates' welfare.
"The court's order is absolutely essential to maintaining prison conditions that protect prisoners from serious illness and death due to inadequate health care," Specter said. The court had no choice because Brown and Democrats who control the state Legislature were refusing to comply with its previous orders, he said.
However, the judges offered the state some flexibility in how it complies.
The administration can revise the expanded good-time credit program, so long as the changes still result in the required population reduction. It can also pick and choose among inmates, substituting those who are deemed less likely to commit new crimes for riskier convicts who would otherwise be released early. Or, it can pick any other measure that was previously on the administration's list of options.
But if the population goal is not met through other means by Dec. 31, "defendants shall release the necessary number of prisoners to reach that goal" by using a list of lower-risk inmates that the state has previously said it could develop.
Though Brown argues otherwise, the court has found that "there is no public safety issue" with the earlier releases, said Michael Bien, the lead attorney representing mentally ill inmates.
The state has reduced its prison population by more than 46,000 inmates since 2006, with more than half the decrease due to a 2-year-old state law that is sentencing lower-level criminals to county jails instead of state prisons. But the population remains about 9,400 inmates over the level required by the courts.
The state has said it can whittle the population further by the end of the year but would remain 2,300 inmates over the court-ordered number.
The administration said it is doing everything it can under California law, but that Brown's reluctantly adopted plan had little support from state lawmakers. Specter said Thursday's ruling removes that obstacle.
The judges warned Brown in April that he could no longer ignore its orders. They opted in their latest order not to cite Brown for contempt, though they said they would be well justified if they were to "institute contempt proceedings immediately."
They decided to delay a contempt citation until they see if the state complies with their new order. However, they warned that failing to comply now with the latest order "shall constitute an act of contempt." (Courtesy, the Associated Press)
MENDOCINO COUNTY'S DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC HEALTH IS WARNING that anyone "who may have consumed berry smoothies from A Frame Espresso in Fort Bragg, which, until a June 4 recall, had been making blended drinks with a berry mix linked to an outbreak of hepatitis A," that they may be in danger of Hepatitis A. A fruit-blend sold by Costco has been identified as contaminated. A Frame Espresso had bought the recalled Organic Antioxidant Blend frozen berry mix produced by Townsend Farms and sold at Costco stores around the west. A Frame had immediately stopped using the blend when its recall was announced. Hepatitis A has a long incubation period. Anyone who bought an A Frame smoothie between March 4 and June 8 of this year, County Health warns, "should watch for jaundiced, or yellowing, skin or eyes, fatigue, abdominal pain, abnormal liver tests, dark urine and pale stool.
STATE LAW PRESENTLY says that requests for public records must be responded to within 10 days, and the requestor must get a response if the government agency needs more time or is rejecting the request. AB76 would make compliance optional.
WHICH MEANS to us media people, especially those of us regarded as enemy aliens, that local government agencies would simply either ignore our requests or reject them without explanation.
THERE'S BEEN A HUGE hullabaloo rightly raised by media that the present access regs not be tampered with. Assembly Speaker John Perez said last Wednesday he will see to it that this sneak attack on public access would not succeed. “To be clear,” Perez said, “this means that the California Public Records Act will remain intact without any changes…”
ON MAY 14th Ukiah’s newest restaurant, Crush Italian Steakhouse, began a job training/mentoring program that has been a great success at their flagship location in Chico. Students from the Ukiah Boys & Girls Club and Mayacama Services will participate in a 10-week program working hand in hand with Crush staff learning how to cook, serve, buss and host in a fine-dining establishment. Every Monday from 5:30 to 8:00 p.m. until July 15, 2013, dinners at Crush Italian Steakhouse & Bar will receive service from teenagers assisting staff in performing their various duties. A special menu item will be featured and Ukiah Crush will give $10 from each special menu directly to the Boys & Girls Club organization. Donations are also accepted. The teenagers involved are members of the Boys & Girls Club who have shown interest in learning about job opportunities in the local community and participants in Mayacama Services, part of the Ukiah Valley Association for Habilitation (UVAH). They Boys & Girls Club students participate regularly in the after school programs and have successfully completed the Club’s job curriculum program. Students were selected after an extensive interview process prior to acceptance into the mentoring program. Boys and Girls Club Chief Professional Officer, Liz Elmore is very excited about the program. “This is an innovative program offered to Boys & Girls Club of Ukiah teens. I am delighted about this partnership and working with Crush by expanding members’ skills from giving them emotional support and encouragement needed to succeed while furthering their education or moving into the job market and adulthood. The significance of Crush’s mentoring program will benefit Ukiah Valley youth as well as businesses for years to come.” The participating youth gain experience four hours every Monday evening at Crush, located at 1180 Airport Park Blvd in Ukiah. On Monday, July 15th, mentored apprentices will perform their final dinner service and be acknowledged for their achievements by the Crush staff, community members, Boys & Girls Club and supporters at a graduation ceremony. Ukiah Crush principal Doug Guillon and his staff work closely to educate each teen in creating a strong work ethic and sense of responsibility. “The restaurant environment provides an excellent medium for young people to learn skills essential to being a valued employee. Emphasis is placed on accountability and creating communication skills so necessary in today’s workplace,” said Guillon. “This program has raised around $3,000 for the Boys and Girls Club in Chico and over time we intend to make a substantial impact in creating the sort of job opportunities the youth of Ukiah deserve.” For more information regarding this Boys & Girls Club of Ukiah program, please contact Liz Elmore, Chief Professional Officer at 467-4900.