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Cut the waste and be green for holidays

Ventura County Star Top Stories - 5 hours 4 sec ago

The holiday season is a fun time for friends and families, but the season also creates mountains of extra waste.

It’s estimated that between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, over 1 million tons of additional waste are generated each week nationwide. Some 38,000 miles of ribbon alone is thrown out each year — enough to tie a bow around the Earth, according to CalRecycle (www.calrecycle.ca.gov).

It’s easy to make more sustainable choices this time of year, keeping recycling, water conservation and other eco-friendly habits in mind. So, how do you deck the halls without the waste (and the guilt)?

There are many ways to have a “green” holiday and Christmas. For starters, consider the gifts you give. Consumable and recycled gifts, and charity donations don’t create as much waste. Drought-tolerant plants like Christmas cactus in an attractive pot, and gift certificates to a local home and garden store are also good ideas, said Joe Yahner, supervisor of the city of Ventura’s Environmental Sustainability Office.

Gifts like home décor items, toys and clothing can also be purchased from nonprofit resale stores like Goodwill, the Senior Concerns Bargain Boutique in Thousand Oaks, the Assistance League stores in Ventura and the Conejo Valley, or Habitat for Humanity’s ReStores in Oxnard and Simi Valley, said Vanessa Pellegrino, an assistant analyst and environmental outreach spokeswoman for the city of Thousand Oaks.

“It’s a win-win, reducing and reusing, helping the environment and you are helping groups like seniors and kids by shopping at those nonprofit stores,” she said.

Gifts also can promote water conservation. The city of Ventura offers residents the option to buy up to two rain barrels for $42 each — about half the cost at the store, said Yahner, adding they make good gifts.

“It’s not something you’d put in somebody’s stocking but it’s something to consider now that it’s starting to rain,” said Yahner, who added that Lowe’s also sells rain barrels. Rain barrels hook up to the downspout at your home and collect rain runoff that can be used to water potted plants or wash the car, for example.

The city of Thousand Oaks promotes the Metropolitan Water District’s water rain barrel rebate program, Pellegrino said. She directed people to the website www.bewaterwise.com. Click on the SoCalWater$mart link on the left side of the homepage for rain barrel rebate details. Rebates start at $75 per barrel.

A compost bin or worm bin would also make a nice gift for gardening enthusiasts, and the city of Ventura has a discount program for them too, said Yahner. (Go to http://www.cityofventura.net/pw/es/resrecycling for details on Ventura’s programs.)

Even holiday decorating can be done in an environmentally friendly way. “Instead of buying bows you could use pine cones that fell down in your backyard. They are so cool for decorating and packages,” Pellegrino suggested.

Recycling helps too. “Just recycle as much as you can. At least half of your waste can be recycled. Think about all the ads and gift catalogs you are getting in mail,” Yahner said.

Nan Drake, spokeswoman for Harrison Industries, urges people to recycle their live Christmas trees. Recycled live trees can be chipped into mulch, sunk in ponds to be used as sanctuaries for fish, or shredded to make material for hiking trail paths. To recycle with Harrison, remove the tree stand, tinsel, hooks and all the ornaments and cut the tree into sections if needed to fit it in the yard waste barrel, Drake said.

“It’s the right thing to do and it helps the Earth,” Drake said. “And mulch in a drought helps keep the moisture in your plants. It’s important to reuse the material that’s chopped up.”

Christmas trees collected for recycling in Ventura County go to Agromin, an Oxnard-based company that recycles green waste for every city in Ventura County except for Santa Paula, Drake said. Agromin produces 27 products such as potting mix, mulch and soil amendments, from recycled green waste and the products are sold at many stores countywide, she noted.

Most environmental organizations say it’s more eco-friendly to use a real Christmas tree than a fake one. Today, nearly all of the trees sold at seasonal Christmas-tree lots are grown on sustainable tree farms, so forests aren’t hurt by buying a cut live tree. The National Christmas Tree Association also notes that for every real Christmas tree harvested, one to three seedlings are planted the following spring.

The sustainable organization Earth911 recommends using a live, potted tree that can be replanted, recycled or donated to a city or park for planting after the holidays.

Earth911 says artificial trees can hurt the environment and people because most are made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC), a toxic, nonrenewable petroleum byproduct that cannot be recycled and is not biodegradable. Lead and cadmium can come from the plastic as it degrades, potentially harming people. In addition, an estimated 85 percent of the artificial trees sold in the United States are imported from China, according to the National Christmas Tree Association, adding to the overall negative environmental footprint fake trees leave when you consider all the energy used to make and ship them overseas.

Three injured in hit-and-run crash

Ventura County Star - Local News - 5 hours 5 min ago

Authorities said three people were taken to a hospital Saturday after an apparent hit-and-run crash on Highway 126.

The five-vehicle crash was reported at 5:26 p.m. on Highway 126 at Willard Road near Santa Paula, the California Highway Patrol reported.

A driver headed eastbound apparently hit the rear of another car, pushing it into the back of a third car, the CHP said.

The car that was initially rear-ended then apparently went into westbound lanes hitting an SUV and another car before flipping over and striking the guardrail.

CHP officers said the driver that apparently started the series of crashes didn’t stop. Three people were taken to the hospital with minor injures, the CHP reported.

Also on Saturday, a crash was reported at Telegraph and Torrey roads in the Piru area at 5:40 p.m., the Ventura County Fire Department said. Initial reports said it was a three-vehicle crash and a horse apparently was struck and killed.

Three injured in hit-and-run crash

Ventura County Star Top Stories - 5 hours 5 min ago

Authorities said three people were taken to a hospital Saturday after an apparent hit-and-run crash on Highway 126.

The five-vehicle crash was reported at 5:26 p.m. on Highway 126 at Willard Road near Santa Paula, the California Highway Patrol reported.

A driver headed eastbound apparently hit the rear of another car, pushing it into the back of a third car, the CHP said.

The car that was initially rear-ended then apparently went into westbound lanes hitting an SUV and another car before flipping over and striking the guardrail.

CHP officers said the driver that apparently started the series of crashes didn’t stop. Three people were taken to the hospital with minor injures, the CHP reported.

Also on Saturday, a crash was reported at Telegraph and Torrey roads in the Piru area at 5:40 p.m., the Ventura County Fire Department said. Initial reports said it was a three-vehicle crash and a horse apparently was struck and killed.

San Antonio Weighs Annexation Plan

Wall Street Journal U.S. News - 5 hours 31 min ago
San Antonio is moving ahead with plans to annex as much as 66 square miles around it, a land grab that would add as many as 200,000 people to the city and potentially make it the nation’s fifth-largest metropolis.

Obama to Nominate Yates to No. 2 Justice Job

Wall Street Journal U.S. News - 6 hours 4 min ago
President Obama has selected Atlanta U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates to serve in the No. 2 job at the Justice Department, according to people familiar with the matter.

Two arrests at Thousand Oaks DUI checkpoint

Ventura County Star - Local News - 7 hours 7 min ago

Two men were arrested on suspicion of DUI at a checkpoint set up in Thousand Oaks Saturday night.

Thousand Oaks Police Department’s Traffic Unit conducted the checkpoint from 9 p.m. to 3 a.m. on Hillcrest Drive west of Lynn Road.

Police said officers screened 304 vehicles; made two arrests; and issued 30 citations.

The operation was funded by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety, police said. Thousand Oaks police are scheduled to conduct another checkpoint on Feb. 9.

Two arrests at Thousand Oaks DUI checkpoint

Ventura County Star Top Stories - 7 hours 7 min ago

Two men were arrested on suspicion of DUI at a checkpoint set up in Thousand Oaks Saturday night.

Thousand Oaks Police Department’s Traffic Unit conducted the checkpoint from 9 p.m. to 3 a.m. on Hillcrest Drive west of Lynn Road.

Police said officers screened 304 vehicles; made two arrests; and issued 30 citations.

The operation was funded by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety, police said. Thousand Oaks police are scheduled to conduct another checkpoint on Feb. 9.

Army to Announce Forwarding of Bergdahl Investigation Results

Wall Street Journal U.S. News - 7 hours 27 min ago
The U.S. Army is expected to announce Monday that it has forwarded the results of its investigation into the 2009 disappearance of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl from an Afghan outpost to a military commander who will determine what punishment the soldier will face, defense officials said.

Shooting Suspect Had Troubled History

Wall Street Journal U.S. News - 7 hours 28 min ago
The man believed to have killed two New York City police officers on Saturday had a troubled emotional history and told two witnesses just before the shooting, “watch what I’m going to do,” a police official said Sunday.

1 person trapped in vehicle after crash

Ventura County Star - Local News - 7 hours 36 min ago

One person was trapped in a vehicle after a reported head-on crash on Happy Valley School Road Sunday afternoon, authorities said.

The crash was reported about 1 p.m. Ventura County firefighters reported the person had been extricated from the vehicle at 1:22 p.m.

Preliminary reports say two people had moderate injuries, and one person had minor injuries. One was taken to the hospital by a helicopter, and a second by ambulance, authorities said.

1 person trapped in vehicle after crash

Ventura County Star Top Stories - 7 hours 36 min ago

One person was trapped in a vehicle after a reported head-on crash on Happy Valley School Road Sunday afternoon, authorities said.

The crash was reported about 1 p.m. Ventura County firefighters reported the person had been extricated from the vehicle at 1:22 p.m.

Preliminary reports say two people had moderate injuries, and one person had minor injuries. One was taken to the hospital by a helicopter, and a second by ambulance, authorities said.

Books of The Times: ‘The World of Raymond Chandler,’ Edited by Barry Day

NY Times Books - 7 hours 37 min ago
“The World of Raymond Chandler: In His Own Words” looks at the world and the works of that detective novelist.






California puzzles over safety of driverless car

Ventura County Star Top Stories - 7 hours 45 min ago

LOS ANGELES (AP) — California's Department of Motor Vehicles will miss a year-end deadline to adopt new rules for cars of the future because regulators first have to figure out how they'll know whether "driverless" vehicles are safe.

It's a rare case of the law getting ahead of an emerging technology and reflects regulators' struggle to balance consumer protection with innovation.

Safety is a chief selling point, since self-driving cars — thanks to an array of sensors — promise to have much greater road awareness and quicker reaction time than people. Plus, they won't text, drink or doze off.

Though the cars are at least a few years away from showrooms, seven companies are testing prototypes on California's roads, and regulators have questions: Do they obey all traffic laws? What if their computers freeze? Can they smoothly hand control back to human drivers?


DMV officials say they won't let the public get self-driving cars until someone can certify that they don't pose an undue risk. The problem is that the technology remains so new there are no accepted standards to verify its safety. Absent standards, certifying safety would be like grading a test without an answer key.

Broadly, the department has three options: It could follow the current U.S. system, in which manufacturers self-certify their vehicles; it could opt for a European system, in which independent companies verify safety; or the state could (implausibly) get into the testing business.

"It's a huge undertaking," said Bernard Soriano, who oversees the DMV's regulatory process. "There are all of these issues that need to be adequately answered."

Manufacturers generally would prefer self-certification. That may be where California ends up, but for now the DMV is exploring independent certification — something that doesn't exist for driverless cars.

In July, the DMV asked third-party testers whether they'd be interested in getting into the game. The department doesn't have the expertise to create a safety standard and testing framework, so "the department wanted to get a very good sense of what is out there in the market," according to Russia Chavis, a deputy secretary at the California State Transportation Agency, which oversees the DMV and requested a deeper exploration of third-party alternatives to self-certification.

Two large European testers and two businesses in Ohio responded to the DMV's request. None was ready to implement a program immediately.

So the department is asking industry, consumer groups and other interested parties to gather in January for a public workshop on safety standards.

Whatever course California officials take could influence how other states — and perhaps even the federal government — approach the issue. California is such a large consumer market that in many cases its rules become de facto national standards.

Federal transportation officials have said they don't plan to write driverless car safety standards any time soon, and they don't want states writing their own. SAE International, an association of engineers, has been developing a set of safety guidelines — but those are for vehicle testing and don't get into specific performance levels that would be needed for commercially available cars.

California's Jan. 1 deadline was set by a 2012 state law that regulated testing on public roads and required the DMV to publish rules guiding what carmakers need to do before they can bring the vehicles to market. The law also says the DMV should encourage the development of driverless cars.
 

Regulations often lag cutting-edge technology, but California's driverless car policy has developed sooner because of lobbying from one of the state's signature companies: Google.

Self-driving vehicles are a departure from the Silicon Valley giant's Internet search and advertising core, but a priority for co-founder Sergey Brin.

Even before Google pushed the 2012 law that officially legalized driverless technology, the Silicon Valley giant had dispatched its cars hundreds of thousands of miles. Google says its Toyota Priuses and Lexus SUVs, souped up with radar, cameras and laser sensors, have an excellent safety record. They have been involved in just a "few" accidents, though not at fault in any of them, spokeswoman Courtney Hohne said.

Google has its own idea for how to determine whether vehicles are safe.

At a March hearing on DMV regulations, Ron Medford, the company's driverless car safety director and a former federal transportation official, suggested the department do road testing.

"I would be cautious," he said, "not to make some of these things more complicated than they are."

 

 

US gas prices fall 25 cents per gallon

Ventura County Star Top Stories - 7 hours 49 min ago

CAMARILLO, Calif. (AP) — The average price of regular gasoline nationwide has dropped another 25 cents a gallon in the past two weeks, to $2.47.

Industry analyst Trilby Lundberg said Sunday that prices will likely keep falling.

Lundberg says the average price of regular gasoline is the lowest it's been in more than five years.

She says lower crude oil prices are driving prices down, along with an abundant oil supply and the rising value of the U.S. dollar.

The highest-priced gas in the Lower 48 states was found in Long Island, New York, at $2.82 a gallon. The lowest was in Tulsa, Oklahoma, at $2.06 a gallon.

California's lowest average was in Sacramento, at $2.58 a gallon.

The average price for midgrade gas in the U.S. is $2.71. For premium it's $2.87.

Mountain lion removed from County

Ventura County Star Top Stories - 7 hours 52 min ago

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Officials have released a mountain lion back into the wild after it walked into a Ventura County mobile home park.

California Department of Fish and Wildlife spokeswoman Janice Mackey told the Los Angeles Times (http://lat.ms/1DYAEJn ) on Saturday that the 75-pound female cat was spotted Friday evening by residents of a mobile home community in Newbury Park.

Officials found the animal hiding under a trailer. Mackey says it was not aggressive and scooted further under the trailer when authorities shined a flashlight at her.

Authorities tranquilized the 14-month-old cat and released it into the wild at an undisclosed location.

Mackey says the cat probably got separated from its family and was searching for territory to call her own.

Slain NYPD Officers Remembered

Wall Street Journal U.S. News - 8 hours 11 min ago
Officer Rafael Ramos was to graduate as a church chaplain this weekend, and Officer Wenjian Liu was a seven-year veteran of the force who had gotten married two months ago. Both were killed by a gunman Saturday.

NYPD Shooting Suspect Referenced Garner, Brown Cases

Wall Street Journal U.S. News - 8 hours 55 min ago
Two New York City police officers were shot and killed in their patrol car outside a Brooklyn housing project on Saturday. Police are investigating social-media posts in which the suspected gunman foreshadowed the killings.

U.S. Reaches Out to China in Effort to Respond to Hacking

Wall Street Journal U.S. News - 9 hours 44 min ago
The Obama administration is seeking assistance from China as U.S. officials craft a response to North Korea’s cyberattack on Sony Pictures, senior administration officials said Saturday.

Santa Anas expected in Ventura Co. Monday

Ventura County Star - Local News - 10 hours 56 min ago

Clouds, high surf and gusty winds are expected in Ventura County Sunday.

After several storms earlier this month, warm and dry conditions are expected by Monday as Santa Ana winds hit the county.

The National Weather Service has issued a high-surf and wind advisory for parts of Ventura County Sunday.

The high-surf advisory is in effect through 6 p.m. Sunday, with large surf expected on west-facing beaches from Ventura to Point Mugu.

Surf could reach 6 to 8 feet, with strong rip currents creating dangerous surfing and swimming conditions.

Temperatures will start climbing, too.

Sunday high temperatures are expected to reach the high 60s in most areas of the county. By Tuesday, temperatures are expected to be 10 to 15 degrees above normal, with highs likely reaching from the mid-70s to 80 degrees.

Wednesday and Thursday will get a little bit cooler, but temperatures are expected to stay above normal for this time of year, the National Weather Service reported.

Gusty, northwesterly winds were expected in the mountains Sunday. Winds could reach 20 to 35 mph, with gusts up to 50 mph, with the strongest winds expected along the Highway 5 corridor.

The forecast calls for warm, dry Santa Ana winds on Monday and Tuesday.

Santa Anas expected in Ventura Co. Monday

Ventura County Star Top Stories - 10 hours 56 min ago

Clouds, high surf and gusty winds are expected in Ventura County Sunday.

After several storms earlier this month, warm and dry conditions are expected by Monday as Santa Ana winds hit the county.

The National Weather Service has issued a high-surf and wind advisory for parts of Ventura County Sunday.

The high-surf advisory is in effect through 6 p.m. Sunday, with large surf expected on west-facing beaches from Ventura to Point Mugu.

Surf could reach 6 to 8 feet, with strong rip currents creating dangerous surfing and swimming conditions.

Temperatures will start climbing, too.

Sunday high temperatures are expected to reach the high 60s in most areas of the county. By Tuesday, temperatures are expected to be 10 to 15 degrees above normal, with highs likely reaching from the mid-70s to 80 degrees.

Wednesday and Thursday will get a little bit cooler, but temperatures are expected to stay above normal for this time of year, the National Weather Service reported.

Gusty, northwesterly winds were expected in the mountains Sunday. Winds could reach 20 to 35 mph, with gusts up to 50 mph, with the strongest winds expected along the Highway 5 corridor.

The forecast calls for warm, dry Santa Ana winds on Monday and Tuesday.

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