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Dog shelter to open Tuesday

Ventura County Star - Local News - November 23, 2014 - 3:23pm

About 55 dogs were being relocated back to the shelter near the site of Tuesday’s explosion near Santa Paula after evacuations were lifted Saturday afternoon.

Volunteers at Canine Adoption and Rescue League shelter had to evacuate Tuesday, leaving 71 dogs behind until Wednesday when they were able to gain access to the property, but by Sunday they were able to relocate the dogs, and have all of them situated by Monday, said executive director Sharon Clark. The shelter was expected to open up by Tuesday.

Since Wednesday, about 16 dogs found homes or foster care, Clark said. The shelter was expected to resume business and start finding homes for the rest.

During the evacuation, the dogs were taken to Balcom Canyon Pet Lodge, Clark said. At the lodge they were able to continue finding homes for the pets and contacted all their customers with updates, she said.

The investigation and cleanup at the site where about 1,000 gallons of a chemical mixture spilled and burned after the rear of a vacuum truck exploded at Santa Clara Waste Water Co., was still going on but all business were told they could reopen by Saturday afternoon.

Clark said the roadway was completely open both ways and she expected for the neighboring business to resume operations Monday or Tuesday, like the shelter was doing.

Dog shelter to open Tuesday

Ventura County Star Top Stories - November 23, 2014 - 3:23pm

About 55 dogs were being relocated back to the shelter near the site of Tuesday’s explosion near Santa Paula after evacuations were lifted Saturday afternoon.

Volunteers at Canine Adoption and Rescue League shelter had to evacuate Tuesday, leaving 71 dogs behind until Wednesday when they were able to gain access to the property, but by Sunday they were able to relocate the dogs, and have all of them situated by Monday, said executive director Sharon Clark. The shelter was expected to open up by Tuesday.

Since Wednesday, about 16 dogs found homes or foster care, Clark said. The shelter was expected to resume business and start finding homes for the rest.

During the evacuation, the dogs were taken to Balcom Canyon Pet Lodge, Clark said. At the lodge they were able to continue finding homes for the pets and contacted all their customers with updates, she said.

The investigation and cleanup at the site where about 1,000 gallons of a chemical mixture spilled and burned after the rear of a vacuum truck exploded at Santa Clara Waste Water Co., was still going on but all business were told they could reopen by Saturday afternoon.

Clark said the roadway was completely open both ways and she expected for the neighboring business to resume operations Monday or Tuesday, like the shelter was doing.

Flag football to benefit mental illness alliance

Ventura County Star - Local News - November 23, 2014 - 3:21pm

Four simultaneous flag football games on Thanksgiving morning at Oak Park High School will raise money for the National Alliance on Mental Illness in honor of Shawn Rishko, an Oak Park graduate who committed suicide at age 22.

“We started this game over 10 years ago as a way to get our friends together when we came home from college,” said Monte McNair, of Texas, who co-founded the event with Matt Koller, of Huntington Beach. “It has evolved into this communitywide event that we all look forward to each year.”

The annual “turkey bowl” began with McNair, Koller, Rishko and other friends in Oak Park. As they went away to college in fall 2002, the group decided to launch a flag football game on Thanksgiving morning.

“Shawn was on the winning team of each of the first three turkey bowls,” McNair recalled. “Then a few years in, we lost Shawn.”

After Rishko’s death in 2006, McNair and Koller decided to dedicate the tournament in his honor.

“We created the ‘TRUE-phy,’ a trophy given out to the winning team named in honor of Rishko’s signature phrase, ‘true,’ ” McNair said. “What started out as a way to keep our friends close turned into an event to remember Shawn and has actually brought the community closer as a whole.”

Rishko was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at age 19, said his mom, Norine.

“Sadly he lost his life to suicide,” she said. “At this point, Shawn’s friends wanted to turn the turkey bowl into a fundraiser for mental illness. As a parent, I wanted to turn this tragedy into something that would help others.”

This year’s turkey bowl will kick off at 8 a.m. and last until about 1 p.m.

Attendees will be able to buy tickets for raffle prizes, said Norine, noting more than 60 local businesses have donated items including restaurant gift certificates, facials, movie tickets and baskets filled with goodies for dogs.

The grand prize is from the Four Seasons Hotel in Westlake Village, she said, adding the accommodations include spa treatments and breakfast for two.

All money raised from the turkey bowl will directly benefit the National Alliance for Mental Illness Ventura County chapter.

“NAMI has many free programs for those suffering from mental illness and for their caretakers. NAMI provides advocacy, education and support,” Norine said.

The turkey bowl has grown as more people recognize mental illness must be addressed and not swept under the carpet, she said.

“My personal goal is to have NAMI clubs at all the local high schools promote mental health and wellness ... to help reduce stigma so students feel more comfortable seeking help or being supportive to others,” Norine said.

McNair hopes to raise awareness that depression is an illness, not a weakness.

“We hope, in Shawn’s lasting memory, we can help others in his position get the help they need, so that the next group of friends doesn’t lose their Shawn.”

The event will be on Oak Park High’s football field at 899 N. Kanan Road. For more information, visit http://namiventura.org/turkey-bowl-2.

Flag football to benefit mental illness alliance

Ventura County Star Top Stories - November 23, 2014 - 3:21pm

Four simultaneous flag football games on Thanksgiving morning at Oak Park High School will raise money for the National Alliance on Mental Illness in honor of Shawn Rishko, an Oak Park graduate who committed suicide at age 22.

“We started this game over 10 years ago as a way to get our friends together when we came home from college,” said Monte McNair, of Texas, who co-founded the event with Matt Koller, of Huntington Beach. “It has evolved into this communitywide event that we all look forward to each year.”

The annual “turkey bowl” began with McNair, Koller, Rishko and other friends in Oak Park. As they went away to college in fall 2002, the group decided to launch a flag football game on Thanksgiving morning.

“Shawn was on the winning team of each of the first three turkey bowls,” McNair recalled. “Then a few years in, we lost Shawn.”

After Rishko’s death in 2006, McNair and Koller decided to dedicate the tournament in his honor.

“We created the ‘TRUE-phy,’ a trophy given out to the winning team named in honor of Rishko’s signature phrase, ‘true,’ ” McNair said. “What started out as a way to keep our friends close turned into an event to remember Shawn and has actually brought the community closer as a whole.”

Rishko was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at age 19, said his mom, Norine.

“Sadly he lost his life to suicide,” she said. “At this point, Shawn’s friends wanted to turn the turkey bowl into a fundraiser for mental illness. As a parent, I wanted to turn this tragedy into something that would help others.”

This year’s turkey bowl will kick off at 8 a.m. and last until about 1 p.m.

Attendees will be able to buy tickets for raffle prizes, said Norine, noting more than 60 local businesses have donated items including restaurant gift certificates, facials, movie tickets and baskets filled with goodies for dogs.

The grand prize is from the Four Seasons Hotel in Westlake Village, she said, adding the accommodations include spa treatments and breakfast for two.

All money raised from the turkey bowl will directly benefit the National Alliance for Mental Illness Ventura County chapter.

“NAMI has many free programs for those suffering from mental illness and for their caretakers. NAMI provides advocacy, education and support,” Norine said.

The turkey bowl has grown as more people recognize mental illness must be addressed and not swept under the carpet, she said.

“My personal goal is to have NAMI clubs at all the local high schools promote mental health and wellness ... to help reduce stigma so students feel more comfortable seeking help or being supportive to others,” Norine said.

McNair hopes to raise awareness that depression is an illness, not a weakness.

“We hope, in Shawn’s lasting memory, we can help others in his position get the help they need, so that the next group of friends doesn’t lose their Shawn.”

The event will be on Oak Park High’s football field at 899 N. Kanan Road. For more information, visit http://namiventura.org/turkey-bowl-2.

Black Thursday and Friday aren't enjoyed by all

Ventura County Star Top Stories - November 23, 2014 - 2:52pm

You won’t find Rick Smith in the crowds that throng retail stores looking for sales on Thanksgiving Day or Black Friday.

“I don’t need anything that badly in my life that I have to get up at 2 a.m. and wrestle people to get it,” he said.

Smith fears a cultural shift is permanently twisting Thanksgiving Day away from being a harvest celebration into a kickoff to the Christmas shopping season.

“Thanksgiving is now about gearing up for the deals and it’s gotten so bad that people have gotten hurt,” he said.

It doesn’t appeal to Smith. He will spend Thanksgiving and Black Friday at home in Oak View, enjoying time with his kids.

“People don’t have to participate,” he said.

And many are choosing not to. Now that Black Friday deals have begun on Thursday, a number of Americans are expressing disgust with what they see as consumerism run amok.

Signs of their revulsion pervade the Internet. More than 96,000 people have signed a petition on Change.org asking Target to close on Thanksgiving Day. The retail giant is scheduled to open at 6 p.m.

More than 1 million people have shared a badge on Facebook pledging not to shop on Thanksgiving. It’s being circulated by a “Say No to Shopping on Thanksgiving” Facebook page, which is celebrating stores like Costco that are still closed on Thanksgiving.

“Cheers to Costco,” reads one post on the site. “But they represent only half of the retail equation. The other half is the greedy consumer leaving a home celebration for a ‘bargain.’ How do we change the equation? Don’t shop.”

National Retail Federation report

Black Friday is the biggest shopping day of the season, according to the National Retail Federation, a retail trade association. There were 92 million Black Friday shoppers in stores and online last year. But Black Thursday shopping is increasing in popularity. An estimated 35 million people shopped on Thanksgiving Day in 2012 and 45 million did so last year, according to the retail federation.

Still, a University of Connecticut/Hartford Courant poll of 1,189 people found that many Americans disapprove of stores opening on the holiday. According to the poll, 49 percent disapprove, 16 percent approve and 34 percent are neutral about stores opening on Thanksgiving Day.

Best Buy, Walmart, Kmart, Sears, Macy’s, Target, J.C. Penney and other major retailers will open Thanksgiving Day, although the opening times vary.

Major retailers that won’t be open on Thanksgiving Day include Neiman-Marcus, Nordstrom, Marshalls, Barnes & Noble and T.J. Maxx.

Stores open Thanksgiving Day may rack up an extra day of sales, but they could be hurt in terms of goodwill, say branding experts.

The closed stores are taking advantage of the backlash among a segment of consumers. In a turnaround from last year, they are actively advertising that they won’t be open, said Kevin Paul Scott, co-founder of the Atlanta-based ADDO Institute, a branding consultant firm.

“And they’re communicating to consumers the reason behind that decision,” he said. “The reason that’s significant is because organizations and businesses are making an effort to appeal to the values of their consumers in order to build long-term affinity.”

Holiday sales are expected to represent about 19.2 percent of the retail industry’s $3.2 trillion in annual sales this year, according to the federation. It federation forecasts sales in November and December (excluding automobile, gas and restaurant sales) will increase 4.1 percent to nearly $617 billion. That compares with a 3.1 percent increase in November and December of 2013 and would mark the first time since 2011 that holiday sales increased more than 4 percent.

Online sales in November and December are expected to grow between 8 and 11 percent over last holiday season, to as much as $105 billion, according to Shop.org’s 2014 online holiday sales forecast.

Do's & Don'ts: What food donations make the cut

Ventura County Star - Local News - November 23, 2014 - 2:51pm

In the sorting room of an Oxnard food bank, currency is measured in expiration dates, dents and ripples.

When it comes to food donations, all is not gold.

“I have one can from 1958 that came in,” FOOD Share’s Rob Jankowski said, pointing out a shelf of memorable but rejected items.

The chicken noodle soup can came in about a year ago, its label a retro, checkered design wrapped around aluminum, not the regular steel or tin.

Two other soup cans from the mid-1980s — cream of celery and green pea — came in several months ago.

And last week, a torn bag of rice showed up in a donation bin. Someone had placed it inside a second bag, preventing a spill but not necessarily contamination.

As holiday food drives gear up this time of year, all kinds of donations end up in the sorting room at the Oxnard headquarters of FOOD Share, the regional food bank.

“The first thing we do is check the integrity of the food to make sure it’s safe for human consumption,” said Jankowski, who leads the agency’s sorting efforts.

Each donated bag or box is emptied on a conveyor belt, manned by volunteers plucking out cans, juice boxes, water bottles and more. Some items come from donation bins, others from local grocery store outlets.

They fill up boxes stacked near dozens of stations. Those boxes are weighed, labeled and stacked on wooden pallets to be moved to the warehouse.

The vast majority of donations — 90-plus percent — make the cut and end up on pantry shelves. But not everything can be rescued.

Some donations are sent elsewhere. Candy goes to the military base, pet food to animal shelters.

Items past their expiration dates (different from the best-before date), rippled or bulging cans, and open packages — even those with just a small tear — end up in a throwaway bin.

Here are general donation tips:

Cans and packaged goods, from fruit cups to macaroni cheese, can be accepted up to one year past their best-before dates.

View the interactive Do's & Don'ts of Donating food

Dry beans, rice or peas, dry pasta in a bag and unopened mayonnaise can be up to three years past the date on the package.

Baby food and medicine cannot be older than the best-before date.

Food also needs identification, whether it’s a front or rear label.

Even if it falls within those guidelines, if a can is pierced, pinched or rippled, chances are good that there’s a pinhole leak that can let in bacteria. Volunteering in the sorting room makes you think a little more about the items you donate yourself, said Linda Molina, who has volunteered as a sorter for eight years. Check the best-before dates, she suggested.

Maria Medeiros, also a longtime volunteer, recommended donating a good mix that includes food for kids.

How to help

The Ventura County Star is collecting donations for the third annual FOOD Share Can-Tree collection:

  • To donate money that will be used to buy canned goods, text VCSTAR to 71777.
  • To donate your food items, go to VCStar.com/cantree to find the nearest drop-off ­location.
     

Digging into the donations sometimes yields fun and surprising results: trendier items like coconut water and the latest yogurt squeeze. Bloody Mary mix raised one volunteer’s eyebrows.

But most often, it’s the more expected cans of soup or beans and other protein-rich items that are easy to turn into hot meals that show up in bins. Those are the types of things food pantries want and need, Jankowski said.

The best of the best: “Peanut butter is platinum. We don’t get enough of it.”

Do's & Don'ts: What food donations make the cut

Ventura County Star Top Stories - November 23, 2014 - 2:51pm

In the sorting room of an Oxnard food bank, currency is measured in expiration dates, dents and ripples.

When it comes to food donations, all is not gold.

“I have one can from 1958 that came in,” FOOD Share’s Rob Jankowski said, pointing out a shelf of memorable but rejected items.

The chicken noodle soup can came in about a year ago, its label a retro, checkered design wrapped around aluminum, not the regular steel or tin.

Two other soup cans from the mid-1980s — cream of celery and green pea — came in several months ago.

And last week, a torn bag of rice showed up in a donation bin. Someone had placed it inside a second bag, preventing a spill but not necessarily contamination.

As holiday food drives gear up this time of year, all kinds of donations end up in the sorting room at the Oxnard headquarters of FOOD Share, the regional food bank.

“The first thing we do is check the integrity of the food to make sure it’s safe for human consumption,” said Jankowski, who leads the agency’s sorting efforts.

Each donated bag or box is emptied on a conveyor belt, manned by volunteers plucking out cans, juice boxes, water bottles and more. Some items come from donation bins, others from local grocery store outlets.

They fill up boxes stacked near dozens of stations. Those boxes are weighed, labeled and stacked on wooden pallets to be moved to the warehouse.

The vast majority of donations — 90-plus percent — make the cut and end up on pantry shelves. But not everything can be rescued.

Some donations are sent elsewhere. Candy goes to the military base, pet food to animal shelters.

Items past their expiration dates (different from the best-before date), rippled or bulging cans, and open packages — even those with just a small tear — end up in a throwaway bin.

Here are general donation tips:

Cans and packaged goods, from fruit cups to macaroni cheese, can be accepted up to one year past their best-before dates.

View the interactive Do's & Don'ts of Donating food

Dry beans, rice or peas, dry pasta in a bag and unopened mayonnaise can be up to three years past the date on the package.

Baby food and medicine cannot be older than the best-before date.

Food also needs identification, whether it’s a front or rear label.

Even if it falls within those guidelines, if a can is pierced, pinched or rippled, chances are good that there’s a pinhole leak that can let in bacteria. Volunteering in the sorting room makes you think a little more about the items you donate yourself, said Linda Molina, who has volunteered as a sorter for eight years. Check the best-before dates, she suggested.

Maria Medeiros, also a longtime volunteer, recommended donating a good mix that includes food for kids.

How to help

The Ventura County Star is collecting donations for the third annual FOOD Share Can-Tree collection:

  • To donate money that will be used to buy canned goods, text VCSTAR to 71777.
  • To donate your food items, go to VCStar.com/cantree to find the nearest drop-off ­location.
     

Digging into the donations sometimes yields fun and surprising results: trendier items like coconut water and the latest yogurt squeeze. Bloody Mary mix raised one volunteer’s eyebrows.

But most often, it’s the more expected cans of soup or beans and other protein-rich items that are easy to turn into hot meals that show up in bins. Those are the types of things food pantries want and need, Jankowski said.

The best of the best: “Peanut butter is platinum. We don’t get enough of it.”

Port Hueneme water agency seeks filtration fix

Ventura County Star - Local News - November 23, 2014 - 2:50pm

The Port Hueneme Water Agency is at the end of the line when it comes to the drinking water it receives from the United Water Conservation District’s Oxnard-Hueneme pipeline.

Because of the ongoing drought and out-of-service wells, the water received from United has degraded in quality. Port Hueneme’s Brackish Water Reclamation Demonstration Facility can no longer filter it without causing long-term damage to its system.

The levels of manganese and iron in water pumped from standby wells are so high they are choking and destroying expensive filters, officials say. It would cost millions of dollars to replace the filters at the reclamation facility.

At a special meeting last week, the Port Hueneme Water Agency, which serves the city of Port Hueneme, Naval Base Ventura County and the Channel Islands Beach Community Services District, heard a proposal from Kevin Alexander, a water expert from environmental engineering firm Hazen and Sawyer.

Alexander said his company offers a filtering system that could be used as an adjunct to the facility, although the costs would be high — anywhere from $6 million for a 300-gallon-per-minute system to much higher, depending on how much and what kind of water is pumped.

The Reclamation Demonstration Facility was shut down temporarily Oct. 11. To continue supplying its customers with water, the water agency has turned to its second, more expensive supplier, the Calleguas Municipal Water District. But that’s also expensive, and the water agency has to pay United for a certain amount of water, regardless of whether it uses that water.

Tony Emmert, deputy general manager for United, said the water it supplies to customers from nine wells in the Oxnard Forebay Groundwater Basin is vulnerable to nitrate contamination from past overuse of fertilizers and from septic system discharges in the area. The Port Hueneme Water Agency and the city of Oxnard are among the customers to receive that water.

Because nitrate contamination is a health hazard, United has turned to three backup wells, which dilute the water. But the backup well water is rich with manganese and iron.

Without the Port Hueneme Water Agency on the system, United has enough water to maintain a quality level for customers that would work in the treatment system. But when it adds the agency, United has to use the standby wells to provide water to all customers.

Port Hueneme Councilman Doug Breeze, who sits on the water agency panel, said the problem is frustrating because the majority of water users are agricultural clients. They use about 80 percent of the water but aren’t subject to the stringent conservation measures required of residential users.

The solution, everyone agrees, is to look into an additional filtration program, such as the one Alexander proposed. But the costs are high, and there are various regulations regarding the pumping of seawater, which could be used to help in filtration efforts.

The Port Hueneme Water Agency has formed an ad hoc committee to explore options.

Emmert, who recently started working for United Water after years with the city of Oxnard, said part of the problem is that when the water supply is sufficient, no one wants to discuss a multimillion-dollar filtration system that would be used only during drought periods.

“Ten years ago when we were building a brackish desalination plant, there was a discussion about adding more redundancy but no one wanted to spend an extra $10 million,” Emmert said. “This is exactly the situation that investment would have helped alleviate. We need to have a healthy discussion and keep these things in mind.”

Port Hueneme water agency seeks filtration fix

Ventura County Star Top Stories - November 23, 2014 - 2:50pm

The Port Hueneme Water Agency is at the end of the line when it comes to the drinking water it receives from the United Water Conservation District’s Oxnard-Hueneme pipeline.

Because of the ongoing drought and out-of-service wells, the water received from United has degraded in quality. Port Hueneme’s Brackish Water Reclamation Demonstration Facility can no longer filter it without causing long-term damage to its system.

The levels of manganese and iron in water pumped from standby wells are so high they are choking and destroying expensive filters, officials say. It would cost millions of dollars to replace the filters at the reclamation facility.

At a special meeting last week, the Port Hueneme Water Agency, which serves the city of Port Hueneme, Naval Base Ventura County and the Channel Islands Beach Community Services District, heard a proposal from Kevin Alexander, a water expert from environmental engineering firm Hazen and Sawyer.

Alexander said his company offers a filtering system that could be used as an adjunct to the facility, although the costs would be high — anywhere from $6 million for a 300-gallon-per-minute system to much higher, depending on how much and what kind of water is pumped.

The Reclamation Demonstration Facility was shut down temporarily Oct. 11. To continue supplying its customers with water, the water agency has turned to its second, more expensive supplier, the Calleguas Municipal Water District. But that’s also expensive, and the water agency has to pay United for a certain amount of water, regardless of whether it uses that water.

Tony Emmert, deputy general manager for United, said the water it supplies to customers from nine wells in the Oxnard Forebay Groundwater Basin is vulnerable to nitrate contamination from past overuse of fertilizers and from septic system discharges in the area. The Port Hueneme Water Agency and the city of Oxnard are among the customers to receive that water.

Because nitrate contamination is a health hazard, United has turned to three backup wells, which dilute the water. But the backup well water is rich with manganese and iron.

Without the Port Hueneme Water Agency on the system, United has enough water to maintain a quality level for customers that would work in the treatment system. But when it adds the agency, United has to use the standby wells to provide water to all customers.

Port Hueneme Councilman Doug Breeze, who sits on the water agency panel, said the problem is frustrating because the majority of water users are agricultural clients. They use about 80 percent of the water but aren’t subject to the stringent conservation measures required of residential users.

The solution, everyone agrees, is to look into an additional filtration program, such as the one Alexander proposed. But the costs are high, and there are various regulations regarding the pumping of seawater, which could be used to help in filtration efforts.

The Port Hueneme Water Agency has formed an ad hoc committee to explore options.

Emmert, who recently started working for United Water after years with the city of Oxnard, said part of the problem is that when the water supply is sufficient, no one wants to discuss a multimillion-dollar filtration system that would be used only during drought periods.

“Ten years ago when we were building a brackish desalination plant, there was a discussion about adding more redundancy but no one wanted to spend an extra $10 million,” Emmert said. “This is exactly the situation that investment would have helped alleviate. We need to have a healthy discussion and keep these things in mind.”

Books of The Times: ‘A Backpack, a Bear and Eight Crates of Vodka,’ a Memoir

NY Times Books - November 23, 2014 - 2:24pm
In “A Backpack, a Bear and Eight Crates of Vodka,” Lev Golinkin recounts how his family fled Ukraine and started anew in the United States.

Holiday spirit, weather boost sales this season

Ventura County Star Top Stories - November 23, 2014 - 2:00pm

Holiday shoppers are expected to spend more and be more altruistic this shopping season, according to the National Retail Federation.

Customers in recent years have been focused on getting discounts and deals to save money on needs for themselves. But an improving employment rate and less national fear regarding the economy have more people opening their wallets for others, said Kathy Grannis, a spokesperson for the National Retail Federation.

“It does appear as if consumers are taking that extra pocket power and putting it toward gifts for their friends and family,” Grannis said.

People celebrating Christmas, Kwanzaa and/or Hanukkah are expected to spend $804.42 on average compared to spending $767.27 last year, according to the National Retail Foundation’s survey.

The survey showed incremental increased spending on gifts for everyone from babysitters to family members.

The survey comes as the unemployment rate continues to tick down. The Labor Department reported unemployment is down to 5.8 percent.

People buying for themselves also might be in a better position to buy frills for themselves as opposed to needed items, Grannis said. 

“We were in kind of this either/or economy where Americans didn’t have the ability to buy their discretionary purchases like clothing and jewelry and personal care and also invest in the larger tickets like appliances or autos or the larger electronics,” she said.

Beyond the economy, retailers are expected to benefit from a milder winter compared to last year, which made it difficult for some would-be buyers to escape the house.

“Weather has a tremendous impact on shopping in general,” Grannis said.
 

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