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Oxnard researcher says she was pushed out

Ventura County Star - Local News - November 22, 2014 - 4:11pm

The biochemist was fired, then arrested on suspicion of stealing research notebooks — her own research notebooks — from her lab and ultimately shackled to a woman nicknamed Crazy Mary.

She authored a study that turned the science world on its ear, interpreted as a step toward curing a disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, that affects more than 1 million Americans.

In dramas that unfolded as one of the study’s primary conclusions was proved wrong, she lost everything: research opportunities, money, reputation.

Judy Mikovits, sitting in her 38-foot fishing boat in a racket club cap and flip-flops, said through it all she was never given a chance to tell her story.

So she spent weeks and months on this boat, the Pura Vida, in the Channel Islands Harbor, talking, sometimes yelling, into a cellphone. She told of experiences that melded retroviruses named with acronyms with allegations of conspiracy and being blackballed.

The result, “Plague,” written by Mikovits and Kent Heckenlively and released by Skyhorse Publishing, hit bookstores Tuesday.

“I was forced out of science because I found an inconvenient truth,” she said.

GLIMPSE OF HOPE

Before her life slid out of control, Mikovits split time between a laboratory in Reno and the home near Channel Islands Harbor she shared with her husband, David Nolde. She served on a race committee at the Pierpont Bay Yacht Club, volunteering her services as a club bartender.

Known as Judy Nolde, she worked with cancer patients at Community Presbyterian Church in Ventura, where her husband was a church elder.

She was a researcher who said her grandfather’s death to cancer spurred her to a career focused on finding cures. She worked for more than 20 years at the National Cancer Institute, then later at EpiGenX Biosciences in Santa Barbara.

Nearly a decade ago, her studies turned from HIV and cancer to chronic fatigue syndrome, a mysterious, incurable disease marked by exhaustion, pain and memory loss. People with the condition may stay in darkened rooms due to light sensitivity, layering themselves with blankets because their bodies struggle to register warmth.

“I felt the illness had been stigmatized by the scientific community,” said Robin Moulton, a Mikovits supporter from Portland who has struggled with chronic fatigue for 20 years. “ ... There are no tests for diagnosis, treatment or any chance of cure.”

At an institute created by Reno lawyer and former lobbyist Harvey Whittemore and his wife, Anne, Mikovits led a study that offered an explanation for the disease. The work claimed the syndrome was linked to a virus that converts itself into DNA and stays with a person for life. Defined as a retrovirus, it’s called XMRV.

The discovery signaled hope. If the disease was caused or even just linked to a retrovirus, scientists might uncover ways to treat it, maybe cure it.

“All these patients went nuts,” said Vincent Racaniello, a virologist from Columbia University in New York. “They could finally see an end to the suffering.”

The discovery bought acclaim and controversy. Unable to duplicate the studies, some scientists challenged the finding.

Mikovits defended her work. She contended retroviruses could also be linked to autism. Patients from around the world blogged and emailed their support.

“I think they feel she was trying to help this patient, which has been, like I say, stigmatized,” said Moulton, who dismissed the challenges to Mikovits’ work.

“It just seemed like a lot of negative paper came out quickly,” she said. “It almost seemed like they were trying to take the focus off it.”

GETTING WEIRD

A strange but not unprecedented story of challenged science turned bizarre three years ago on a November Friday.

A woman came to the door of Mikovits’ beachside home outside of Oxnard, claiming to be a patient. Instead, she was a campus police officer from the University of Nevada, Reno. Another Nevada officer came from the bushes. Ventura County Sheriff’s Office deputies emerged from the driveway.

Mikovits was arrested.

She had been fired by the Whittemore Peterson Institute in September over a dispute that involved turning over a cell line to another researcher. After the termination, her laboratory was searched, Mikovits said.

She worried about research notebooks kept in still-locked drawers. They contained her work on XMRV and other studies. They also revealed patient information. She told her assistant to take the records out of the lab and secure them.

The Whittemores went to the police accusing her of theft. The arrest made national news and led to five days in jail.

“The word I would use is surreal,” Mikovits said. “There’s a 24-hour light in your eye. There’s no pillow. There are no bars. There’s a locked door.”

To this day, she defends her choice to have the notebooks removed from the lab.

“If we had left those notebooks unsecured, patient names would have been exposed,” she said. “It’s like letting your credit card information get out.”

FORCED OUT

She said she lost everything.

The Whittemores sued her. A judge said she was in default because she refused to turn over materials that Mikovits’ lawyer said were protected because of the criminal charges stemming from her arrest.

The criminal case was later dropped. Mikovits filed bankruptcy. Her Oxnard area home was sold. She said the notebooks that triggered her arrest are being held under permanent court injunction, meaning she can’t touch them.

The journal that published her study printed first a partial, then a total retraction. A 2012 study led by Dr. Ian Lipkin and also involving Mikovits showed that XMRV was the result of lab contamination.

The study means XMRV isn’t linked to chronic fatigue syndrome, Mikovits said. She also said her research shows a connection to a different, still unidentified retrovirus.

That is the inconvenient truth.

“Retroviruses and environmental toxins led to this explosion of chronic diseases,” she said.

Mikovits wants more research on the retroviral connection not only to chronic fatigue, but cancer, autism and other conditions. She pushes for more studies on the role vaccines and chemicals in the environment play in the diseases.

She doesn’t expect to be involved in the studies or to get a whiff of government research funding.

“She absolutely was blackballed,” said Frank Ruscetti, her research partner in the XMRV study. He said the study and its false conclusion were used to punish Mikovits.

“They did their best to portray it as scientific mischief instead of honest science that didn’t understand the exotic biology of this virus,” he said.

‘PLAGUE OF INTEGRITY’

Mikovits contends leaders of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health saw her work as a threat to their long-held claims the disease was not affected by the environment. She said government officials have long fought efforts to change the way society views chronic fatigue, fearing it would show they covered up what they already knew.

She said her grants from the National Institutes of Health were taken away and given to someone else. She said she was barred from setting foot on the National Cancer Institute, where she once worked.

She said the contaminant that emerged in her study came from a Cleveland lab involved in a study that falsely linked XMRV to prostate cancer. That study wasn’t vilified, Mikovits said, but hers was.

“It’s a plague of integrity,” Mikovits said, explaining her book’s title. “The real plague is the censorship and special interests.”

National Institutes of Health Officials offered no comment on Mikovits’ allegations, saying they support a better understanding of chronic fatigue syndrome. Other observers said they saw no evidence of a conspiracy or government suppression.

“Nobody had anything against Judy,” said Vincent Racaniello, a virologist from Columbia University, citing Mikovits’ efforts to defend her work. “She was simply in the wrong and only at the end did she really admit it.”

Boston researcher John Coffin is described in the book as the grand old man of virology and a supporter of Mikovits’ study who became a foe. He also said he saw no evidence of a conspiracy.

As far as Mikovits’ future, he said he would consider collaborating with her in the right situation.

“I don’t know if she would collaborate with me,” he said.

DESPERATE TO HELP

The story twists more than a tornado. Harvey Whittemore, once Mikovits’ employer, was convicted of funneling $133,000 in illegal campaign contributions to his friend, Sen. Harry Reid, the Senate minority leader. Reid was not accused of wrongdoing.

Whittemore is serving a two-year sentence in federal prison in Lompoc.

Mikovits and her husband live off the pension from his years as personnel director at the Ventura County Health Care Agency. They split time between a small home in Carlsbad and the Channel Islands Harbor. Their boat is up for sale.

She thinks she has been slandered. She probably won’t sue.

“To sue, you have to have a lawyer,” she said. “You have to have money.”

She formed a consulting company with Ruscetti in Carlsbad. She keeps up to date on research and tries to help the patients who still keep constant contact.

She wants to do more. Moulton, the woman with chronic fatigue, wants the same thing.

“She has so much experience with these things,” Moulton said, referring to cancer, HIV and chronic fatigue. “I think the world would be better with her in a lab.”

Oxnard researcher says she was pushed out

Ventura County Star Top Stories - November 22, 2014 - 4:11pm

The biochemist was fired, then arrested on suspicion of stealing research notebooks — her own research notebooks — from her lab and ultimately shackled to a woman nicknamed Crazy Mary.

She authored a study that turned the science world on its ear, interpreted as a step toward curing a disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, that affects more than 1 million Americans.

In dramas that unfolded as one of the study’s primary conclusions was proved wrong, she lost everything: research opportunities, money, reputation.

Judy Mikovits, sitting in her 38-foot fishing boat in a racket club cap and flip-flops, said through it all she was never given a chance to tell her story.

So she spent weeks and months on this boat, the Pura Vida, in the Channel Islands Harbor, talking, sometimes yelling, into a cellphone. She told of experiences that melded retroviruses named with acronyms with allegations of conspiracy and being blackballed.

The result, “Plague,” written by Mikovits and Kent Heckenlively and released by Skyhorse Publishing, hit bookstores Tuesday.

“I was forced out of science because I found an inconvenient truth,” she said.

GLIMPSE OF HOPE

Before her life slid out of control, Mikovits split time between a laboratory in Reno and the home near Channel Islands Harbor she shared with her husband, David Nolde. She served on a race committee at the Pierpont Bay Yacht Club, volunteering her services as a club bartender.

Known as Judy Nolde, she worked with cancer patients at Community Presbyterian Church in Ventura, where her husband was a church elder.

She was a researcher who said her grandfather’s death to cancer spurred her to a career focused on finding cures. She worked for more than 20 years at the National Cancer Institute, then later at EpiGenX Biosciences in Santa Barbara.

Nearly a decade ago, her studies turned from HIV and cancer to chronic fatigue syndrome, a mysterious, incurable disease marked by exhaustion, pain and memory loss. People with the condition may stay in darkened rooms due to light sensitivity, layering themselves with blankets because their bodies struggle to register warmth.

“I felt the illness had been stigmatized by the scientific community,” said Robin Moulton, a Mikovits supporter from Portland who has struggled with chronic fatigue for 20 years. “ ... There are no tests for diagnosis, treatment or any chance of cure.”

At an institute created by Reno lawyer and former lobbyist Harvey Whittemore and his wife, Anne, Mikovits led a study that offered an explanation for the disease. The work claimed the syndrome was linked to a virus that converts itself into DNA and stays with a person for life. Defined as a retrovirus, it’s called XMRV.

The discovery signaled hope. If the disease was caused or even just linked to a retrovirus, scientists might uncover ways to treat it, maybe cure it.

“All these patients went nuts,” said Vincent Racaniello, a virologist from Columbia University in New York. “They could finally see an end to the suffering.”

The discovery bought acclaim and controversy. Unable to duplicate the studies, some scientists challenged the finding.

Mikovits defended her work. She contended retroviruses could also be linked to autism. Patients from around the world blogged and emailed their support.

“I think they feel she was trying to help this patient, which has been, like I say, stigmatized,” said Moulton, who dismissed the challenges to Mikovits’ work.

“It just seemed like a lot of negative paper came out quickly,” she said. “It almost seemed like they were trying to take the focus off it.”

GETTING WEIRD

A strange but not unprecedented story of challenged science turned bizarre three years ago on a November Friday.

A woman came to the door of Mikovits’ beachside home outside of Oxnard, claiming to be a patient. Instead, she was a campus police officer from the University of Nevada, Reno. Another Nevada officer came from the bushes. Ventura County Sheriff’s Office deputies emerged from the driveway.

Mikovits was arrested.

She had been fired by the Whittemore Peterson Institute in September over a dispute that involved turning over a cell line to another researcher. After the termination, her laboratory was searched, Mikovits said.

She worried about research notebooks kept in still-locked drawers. They contained her work on XMRV and other studies. They also revealed patient information. She told her assistant to take the records out of the lab and secure them.

The Whittemores went to the police accusing her of theft. The arrest made national news and led to five days in jail.

“The word I would use is surreal,” Mikovits said. “There’s a 24-hour light in your eye. There’s no pillow. There are no bars. There’s a locked door.”

To this day, she defends her choice to have the notebooks removed from the lab.

“If we had left those notebooks unsecured, patient names would have been exposed,” she said. “It’s like letting your credit card information get out.”

FORCED OUT

She said she lost everything.

The Whittemores sued her. A judge said she was in default because she refused to turn over materials that Mikovits’ lawyer said were protected because of the criminal charges stemming from her arrest.

The criminal case was later dropped. Mikovits filed bankruptcy. Her Oxnard area home was sold. She said the notebooks that triggered her arrest are being held under permanent court injunction, meaning she can’t touch them.

The journal that published her study printed first a partial, then a total retraction. A 2012 study led by Dr. Ian Lipkin and also involving Mikovits showed that XMRV was the result of lab contamination.

The study means XMRV isn’t linked to chronic fatigue syndrome, Mikovits said. She also said her research shows a connection to a different, still unidentified retrovirus.

That is the inconvenient truth.

“Retroviruses and environmental toxins led to this explosion of chronic diseases,” she said.

Mikovits wants more research on the retroviral connection not only to chronic fatigue, but cancer, autism and other conditions. She pushes for more studies on the role vaccines and chemicals in the environment play in the diseases.

She doesn’t expect to be involved in the studies or to get a whiff of government research funding.

“She absolutely was blackballed,” said Frank Ruscetti, her research partner in the XMRV study. He said the study and its false conclusion were used to punish Mikovits.

“They did their best to portray it as scientific mischief instead of honest science that didn’t understand the exotic biology of this virus,” he said.

‘PLAGUE OF INTEGRITY’

Mikovits contends leaders of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health saw her work as a threat to their long-held claims the disease was not affected by the environment. She said government officials have long fought efforts to change the way society views chronic fatigue, fearing it would show they covered up what they already knew.

She said her grants from the National Institutes of Health were taken away and given to someone else. She said she was barred from setting foot on the National Cancer Institute, where she once worked.

She said the contaminant that emerged in her study came from a Cleveland lab involved in a study that falsely linked XMRV to prostate cancer. That study wasn’t vilified, Mikovits said, but hers was.

“It’s a plague of integrity,” Mikovits said, explaining her book’s title. “The real plague is the censorship and special interests.”

National Institutes of Health Officials offered no comment on Mikovits’ allegations, saying they support a better understanding of chronic fatigue syndrome. Other observers said they saw no evidence of a conspiracy or government suppression.

“Nobody had anything against Judy,” said Vincent Racaniello, a virologist from Columbia University, citing Mikovits’ efforts to defend her work. “She was simply in the wrong and only at the end did she really admit it.”

Boston researcher John Coffin is described in the book as the grand old man of virology and a supporter of Mikovits’ study who became a foe. He also said he saw no evidence of a conspiracy.

As far as Mikovits’ future, he said he would consider collaborating with her in the right situation.

“I don’t know if she would collaborate with me,” he said.

DESPERATE TO HELP

The story twists more than a tornado. Harvey Whittemore, once Mikovits’ employer, was convicted of funneling $133,000 in illegal campaign contributions to his friend, Sen. Harry Reid, the Senate minority leader. Reid was not accused of wrongdoing.

Whittemore is serving a two-year sentence in federal prison in Lompoc.

Mikovits and her husband live off the pension from his years as personnel director at the Ventura County Health Care Agency. They split time between a small home in Carlsbad and the Channel Islands Harbor. Their boat is up for sale.

She thinks she has been slandered. She probably won’t sue.

“To sue, you have to have a lawyer,” she said. “You have to have money.”

She formed a consulting company with Ruscetti in Carlsbad. She keeps up to date on research and tries to help the patients who still keep constant contact.

She wants to do more. Moulton, the woman with chronic fatigue, wants the same thing.

“She has so much experience with these things,” Moulton said, referring to cancer, HIV and chronic fatigue. “I think the world would be better with her in a lab.”

Area business announce latest news

Ventura County Star - Local News - November 22, 2014 - 4:11pm

CALABASAS

Brokerage appoints managing directors

Lee & Associates-LA North/Ventura, a full-service commercial real estate brokerage and member of the Lee & Associates group of companies, has named Mike Tingus chairman of the board and appointed principals John Battle, Jim Fisher and Grant Fulkerson as managing directors responsible for the company’s offices in Sherman Oaks, Calabasas, Ventura County and the Antelope Valley.

The three new managing directors will share responsibility for the company’s direction and strategies as members of Lee’s board of directors while directly managing the individual offices where each is based.

The moves, which will be effective Feb. 1, come as the firm celebrates its 20th anniversary.

Battle is a founding shareholder of Lee’s Sherman Oaks office in 1994.

He has represented and advised many of the largest real estate developers in the area, and executed more than $1.5 billion in transactions.

He is based in LVentura County and will also be responsible for the Antelope Valley office.

Fisher, based in Sherman Oaks, has transacted more than $3 billion in sales during his career and helped orchestrate the growth of the Multifamily Investment Group.

Fulkerson, based in Calabasas, is an industrial specialist who has transacted more than 4 million square feet of sales and leases with Lee since 2004. He has served on Lee’s board of directors since 2012.

Tingus, a 26-year commercial real estate specialist who has transacted more than $1.5 billion in sales, leases and joint ventures, has been active in a number of Lee’s national activities as a member of its board of directors and of the company’s Expansion Committee.

CAMARILLO

City honored for energy efficiency

The city of Camarillo has been recognized by Southern California Edison and the Ventura County Regional Energy Alliance for its energy efficiency.

The city has achieved Gold Tier Level in the Energy Leader Partnership Program as a result of its commitment to establishing significant energy efficiency in its operations and providing sustainable energy programs and services to its residents.

To reach Gold Tier status, Camarillo achieved more than 10 percent energy savings in municipal facilities.

Since the city began participating in the regional alliance program, it has reduced its energy use by more than 1.4 million kilowatt hours annually.

The city’s energy efficiency efforts have resulted in an estimated energy related savings of $600,000.

The city has worked through energy awareness outreach to encourage businesses and residents to do their part to reduce energy usage. Most recently, it completed an Energy Action Plan to help guide its long-term energy saving goals.

The partnership allows Camarillo to receive enhanced incentives from the utilities for electricity and natural gas savings for municipal retrofit projects.

The Ventura County Regional Energy Alliance is a Joint Powers Agency comprised of public agencies working in collaboration to address good energy stewardship.

OXNARD

Boys & Girls Clubs names new director

The Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Oxnard and Port Hueneme has promoted Omar Zapata to director of program services. He takes over for Erin Antrim, who was recently named the club’s new chief executive officer.

Zapata will be responsible for maintaining and enhancing all departments.

Zapata joined the club in the fall of 2007, bringing with him experience as a youth-at-risk counselor for the city of Ventura Parks and Recreation, social worker and administrator for foster care group home adolescents. He has worked in public service for more than 20 years.

At the Boys & Girls Club, he started as a coordinator for the club’s after school programs, then transferred to the Youth Empowerment Program as an in-school academic and career adviser case manager. He was later promoted to director of school-based programs, where he managed a staff of over 100 employees at two school districts.

He received his bachelor’s degree in sociology and master’s degree in counseling psychology with an emphasis in marital family therapy from CSU Northridge.

THOUSAND OAKS

Chamber announces board members

Greater Conejo Valley Chairman of the Board 2014 Leonard Greenlee of Baxter Healthcare has announced new members of the chamber’s board of directors effective Jan. 1.

The new members are Frank Bellinghiere, Law Offices of Frank Bellinghiere; Natalie Bradley, Ventura County Credit Union; Lydia Derian, Kretek International; Megan Fox, Amgen; and Scott Harris, Mustang Marketing.

Also announced by Rick Lemmo of Caruso Affiliated, who will assume the chairmanship in 2015, is the 2015 Executive Committee. The committee consists of Greenlee; Matthew Midura, Pepperdine University; Lisa Shaw, Corwin, A SAGE Company; Angel Robertson, Skyline Mortgage & Dallas Capital; Lisa Safaeinili, Westminster Free Clinic; Chris Shaver, Shaver Automotive Group; Chris Kimball, California Lutheran University; Yvonne Noblitt, Oaks Christian School; and Jill Lederer, president/CEO of the chamber.

The Greater Conejo Valley Chamber of Commerce is the official chamber for the cities of Thousand Oaks, Westlake Village and Agoura Hills. For more information, visit http://www.conejochamber.org.

Senior VP joins board of governors

Timothy Milaney has joined the Board of Governors of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Conejo Valley.

Milaney is currently the senior vice president of HUB International, formerly Peterson, Milaney Insurance Associates. HUB International is the ninth largest insurance brokerage firm in the world.

He started his career with Travelers Insurance Company and later worked at two other national insurance companies, advancing to production manager before joining a retail independent insurance agency in 1975.

Milaney and his wife, Judith built their business until their agency was acquired by HUB in September. He has been appointed to several insurance company agency councils including chairman of the Fireman’s Fund Council where he served during the 1990s. He has won several sales awards.

His earned a Bachelor of Science degree from CSU Los Angeles. After college, he joined the Army. He is an avid golfer and a member of North Ranch Country Club. He and his wife have four children and three grandchildren.

VENTURA

Attorney receives service award

Ferguson Case Orr Paterson LLP attorney David Shain has been selected by the Ventura County Bar Association as this year’s recipient of the Ben E. Nordman Public Service Award.

The honor is in recognition for Shain’s longtime commitment to aiding county residents who are less fortunate through his many community volunteer activities and legal work with the Volunteer Lawyer Services Program and VCBA Pro Bono Committee.

Shain, who has been with Ferguson Orr since 1998, received the award on Nov. 15 at the bar association’s annual Installation and Awards Dinner at the Crowne Plaza Ventura Beach hotel.

The Ventura County Bar Association has presented the award since 1986 to recognize an attorney for his or her outstanding contributions to his or her community through public service. A selection committee of past winners and community leaders chooses the recipient.

Shain co-founded the Volunteer Legal Services Program in 1996, which provides legal services for low-income residents of Ventura County. He has volunteered with the Conejo Free Clinic for nearly 30 years, and is a longtime volunteer with Habitat for Humanity through Temple Adat Elohim in Thousand Oaks. Shain also helped found The Wellness Community Valley/Ventura (now known as the Cancer Support Community Valley/Ventura/Santa Barbara.)

Shain has been an active member in the Ventura County Bar Association for many years, serving as its president in 1996, and is a board member and former president of the Ventura County Trial Lawyers Association. Shain is also a member of the board of governors of Consumer Attorneys of California and a board member of the Thousand Oaks Library Foundation.

Shain received his bachelor’s degree in 1974 from State University of New York at Albany and law degree from Georgetown University Law Center in 1978.

VENTURA COUNTY

SBDC adds new program specialist

Alondra Gaytan has joined the EDC-VC’s Small Business Development Center of Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties as a program specialist.

In this position, Gaytan will be responsible for coordinating with small business owners and innovators, as well as distributing information to the SBDC’s approximately 30 advisers who provide free one-on-one consulting to businesses in the region.

Being bilingual and having a strong background in customer service, Gaytan will also provide the SBDC’s Spanish-speaking clients with information and resources for their business needs.

A resident of Piru, Gaytan is also a tutor for students age 13-19 with One Step a La Vez, where she provides academic assistance and encourages students to get involved in community activities. She has associates degrees in arts and humanities, and social and behavioral sciences from Ventura College. Gaytan is currently pursuing a degree in global studies at National University.

Attorney named group’s president

Dennis LaRochelle, a partner in the Oxnard law firm of Arnold LaRochelle Mathews VanConas & Zirbel LLP, is the new president of the CAL-ABOTA, California’s chapter of American Board of Trial Advocates.

CAL-ABOTA, is the state chapter of a national association of plaintiff and defense jury trial lawyers. Its goals are to preserve the right to a jury trial in civil cases and to enhance civility, integrity and dignity among litigators. Members include judges and an equal number of attorneys for plaintiffs and defendants.

LaRochelle was installed as president Nov. 5 during the group’s annual conference at the Mauna Kea Resort in Hawaii.

Membership in ABOTA is limited to attorneys who meet the organization’s jury trial criteria and are elected by their peers. To qualify, an attorney must have handled at least 10 civil jury trials in which a verdict was reached and be approved by 75 percent of their chapter’s membership. ABOTA has over 7,000 members nationwide in 97 chapters. In California it represents eight chapters with 1,700 members.

LaRochelle is the first statewide president from Ventura County since the California Coast Chapter, which covers Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties, was formed in 1988. LaRochelle previously served as president of the California Coast chapter. His new term is for one year.

LaRochelle has served as president of the Ventura County Bar Association and the Ventura County Trial Lawyers Association. He has held the position of master in the Ventura County Chapter of the American Inns of Court, was president of the Ventura County Bar Association Business Litigation Section, and chaired the county bar association judicial evaluations committee.

He’s also served as an arbitrator and mandatory settlement conference officer for the Ventura County Superior Court for over 25 years.

WESTLAKE VILLAGE

Area firm awarded EPA business grant

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced a $300,000 Small Business Innovation Research) grant to Instrumental Polymer Technologies LLC in Westlake Village to produce low-cost, zero-emission polymers from sustainable materials into a water-based wood coating.

Instrumental Polymer Technologies has developed a process to produce dendrimers (molecules which branch out from a central point to form a spherical shape) from sustainable raw materials such as soy. The unique property of the dendrimers allows them to be applied as 100 percent solids, but they can disperse in water for easy cleanup. They will create a smooth, high gloss finish reducing sanding and buffing. The company will develop the concept into a low-cost, high performance product that manufacturers of wood coatings can use as substitutes for typical polyurethane coatings derived from petroleum.

For more information about the program, visit http://www.epa.gov/ncer/sbir.

To share news about your company or business-related organization, email dajustesen@VCStar.com. If there is an event involved, please email the information at least three weeks in advance of the event.

Area business announce latest news

Ventura County Star Top Stories - November 22, 2014 - 4:11pm

CALABASAS

Brokerage appoints managing directors

Lee & Associates-LA North/Ventura, a full-service commercial real estate brokerage and member of the Lee & Associates group of companies, has named Mike Tingus chairman of the board and appointed principals John Battle, Jim Fisher and Grant Fulkerson as managing directors responsible for the company’s offices in Sherman Oaks, Calabasas, Ventura County and the Antelope Valley.

The three new managing directors will share responsibility for the company’s direction and strategies as members of Lee’s board of directors while directly managing the individual offices where each is based.

The moves, which will be effective Feb. 1, come as the firm celebrates its 20th anniversary.

Battle is a founding shareholder of Lee’s Sherman Oaks office in 1994.

He has represented and advised many of the largest real estate developers in the area, and executed more than $1.5 billion in transactions.

He is based in LVentura County and will also be responsible for the Antelope Valley office.

Fisher, based in Sherman Oaks, has transacted more than $3 billion in sales during his career and helped orchestrate the growth of the Multifamily Investment Group.

Fulkerson, based in Calabasas, is an industrial specialist who has transacted more than 4 million square feet of sales and leases with Lee since 2004. He has served on Lee’s board of directors since 2012.

Tingus, a 26-year commercial real estate specialist who has transacted more than $1.5 billion in sales, leases and joint ventures, has been active in a number of Lee’s national activities as a member of its board of directors and of the company’s Expansion Committee.

CAMARILLO

City honored for energy efficiency

The city of Camarillo has been recognized by Southern California Edison and the Ventura County Regional Energy Alliance for its energy efficiency.

The city has achieved Gold Tier Level in the Energy Leader Partnership Program as a result of its commitment to establishing significant energy efficiency in its operations and providing sustainable energy programs and services to its residents.

To reach Gold Tier status, Camarillo achieved more than 10 percent energy savings in municipal facilities.

Since the city began participating in the regional alliance program, it has reduced its energy use by more than 1.4 million kilowatt hours annually.

The city’s energy efficiency efforts have resulted in an estimated energy related savings of $600,000.

The city has worked through energy awareness outreach to encourage businesses and residents to do their part to reduce energy usage. Most recently, it completed an Energy Action Plan to help guide its long-term energy saving goals.

The partnership allows Camarillo to receive enhanced incentives from the utilities for electricity and natural gas savings for municipal retrofit projects.

The Ventura County Regional Energy Alliance is a Joint Powers Agency comprised of public agencies working in collaboration to address good energy stewardship.

OXNARD

Boys & Girls Clubs names new director

The Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Oxnard and Port Hueneme has promoted Omar Zapata to director of program services. He takes over for Erin Antrim, who was recently named the club’s new chief executive officer.

Zapata will be responsible for maintaining and enhancing all departments.

Zapata joined the club in the fall of 2007, bringing with him experience as a youth-at-risk counselor for the city of Ventura Parks and Recreation, social worker and administrator for foster care group home adolescents. He has worked in public service for more than 20 years.

At the Boys & Girls Club, he started as a coordinator for the club’s after school programs, then transferred to the Youth Empowerment Program as an in-school academic and career adviser case manager. He was later promoted to director of school-based programs, where he managed a staff of over 100 employees at two school districts.

He received his bachelor’s degree in sociology and master’s degree in counseling psychology with an emphasis in marital family therapy from CSU Northridge.

THOUSAND OAKS

Chamber announces board members

Greater Conejo Valley Chairman of the Board 2014 Leonard Greenlee of Baxter Healthcare has announced new members of the chamber’s board of directors effective Jan. 1.

The new members are Frank Bellinghiere, Law Offices of Frank Bellinghiere; Natalie Bradley, Ventura County Credit Union; Lydia Derian, Kretek International; Megan Fox, Amgen; and Scott Harris, Mustang Marketing.

Also announced by Rick Lemmo of Caruso Affiliated, who will assume the chairmanship in 2015, is the 2015 Executive Committee. The committee consists of Greenlee; Matthew Midura, Pepperdine University; Lisa Shaw, Corwin, A SAGE Company; Angel Robertson, Skyline Mortgage & Dallas Capital; Lisa Safaeinili, Westminster Free Clinic; Chris Shaver, Shaver Automotive Group; Chris Kimball, California Lutheran University; Yvonne Noblitt, Oaks Christian School; and Jill Lederer, president/CEO of the chamber.

The Greater Conejo Valley Chamber of Commerce is the official chamber for the cities of Thousand Oaks, Westlake Village and Agoura Hills. For more information, visit http://www.conejochamber.org.

Senior VP joins board of governors

Timothy Milaney has joined the Board of Governors of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Conejo Valley.

Milaney is currently the senior vice president of HUB International, formerly Peterson, Milaney Insurance Associates. HUB International is the ninth largest insurance brokerage firm in the world.

He started his career with Travelers Insurance Company and later worked at two other national insurance companies, advancing to production manager before joining a retail independent insurance agency in 1975.

Milaney and his wife, Judith built their business until their agency was acquired by HUB in September. He has been appointed to several insurance company agency councils including chairman of the Fireman’s Fund Council where he served during the 1990s. He has won several sales awards.

His earned a Bachelor of Science degree from CSU Los Angeles. After college, he joined the Army. He is an avid golfer and a member of North Ranch Country Club. He and his wife have four children and three grandchildren.

VENTURA

Attorney receives service award

Ferguson Case Orr Paterson LLP attorney David Shain has been selected by the Ventura County Bar Association as this year’s recipient of the Ben E. Nordman Public Service Award.

The honor is in recognition for Shain’s longtime commitment to aiding county residents who are less fortunate through his many community volunteer activities and legal work with the Volunteer Lawyer Services Program and VCBA Pro Bono Committee.

Shain, who has been with Ferguson Orr since 1998, received the award on Nov. 15 at the bar association’s annual Installation and Awards Dinner at the Crowne Plaza Ventura Beach hotel.

The Ventura County Bar Association has presented the award since 1986 to recognize an attorney for his or her outstanding contributions to his or her community through public service. A selection committee of past winners and community leaders chooses the recipient.

Shain co-founded the Volunteer Legal Services Program in 1996, which provides legal services for low-income residents of Ventura County. He has volunteered with the Conejo Free Clinic for nearly 30 years, and is a longtime volunteer with Habitat for Humanity through Temple Adat Elohim in Thousand Oaks. Shain also helped found The Wellness Community Valley/Ventura (now known as the Cancer Support Community Valley/Ventura/Santa Barbara.)

Shain has been an active member in the Ventura County Bar Association for many years, serving as its president in 1996, and is a board member and former president of the Ventura County Trial Lawyers Association. Shain is also a member of the board of governors of Consumer Attorneys of California and a board member of the Thousand Oaks Library Foundation.

Shain received his bachelor’s degree in 1974 from State University of New York at Albany and law degree from Georgetown University Law Center in 1978.

VENTURA COUNTY

SBDC adds new program specialist

Alondra Gaytan has joined the EDC-VC’s Small Business Development Center of Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties as a program specialist.

In this position, Gaytan will be responsible for coordinating with small business owners and innovators, as well as distributing information to the SBDC’s approximately 30 advisers who provide free one-on-one consulting to businesses in the region.

Being bilingual and having a strong background in customer service, Gaytan will also provide the SBDC’s Spanish-speaking clients with information and resources for their business needs.

A resident of Piru, Gaytan is also a tutor for students age 13-19 with One Step a La Vez, where she provides academic assistance and encourages students to get involved in community activities. She has associates degrees in arts and humanities, and social and behavioral sciences from Ventura College. Gaytan is currently pursuing a degree in global studies at National University.

Attorney named group’s president

Dennis LaRochelle, a partner in the Oxnard law firm of Arnold LaRochelle Mathews VanConas & Zirbel LLP, is the new president of the CAL-ABOTA, California’s chapter of American Board of Trial Advocates.

CAL-ABOTA, is the state chapter of a national association of plaintiff and defense jury trial lawyers. Its goals are to preserve the right to a jury trial in civil cases and to enhance civility, integrity and dignity among litigators. Members include judges and an equal number of attorneys for plaintiffs and defendants.

LaRochelle was installed as president Nov. 5 during the group’s annual conference at the Mauna Kea Resort in Hawaii.

Membership in ABOTA is limited to attorneys who meet the organization’s jury trial criteria and are elected by their peers. To qualify, an attorney must have handled at least 10 civil jury trials in which a verdict was reached and be approved by 75 percent of their chapter’s membership. ABOTA has over 7,000 members nationwide in 97 chapters. In California it represents eight chapters with 1,700 members.

LaRochelle is the first statewide president from Ventura County since the California Coast Chapter, which covers Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties, was formed in 1988. LaRochelle previously served as president of the California Coast chapter. His new term is for one year.

LaRochelle has served as president of the Ventura County Bar Association and the Ventura County Trial Lawyers Association. He has held the position of master in the Ventura County Chapter of the American Inns of Court, was president of the Ventura County Bar Association Business Litigation Section, and chaired the county bar association judicial evaluations committee.

He’s also served as an arbitrator and mandatory settlement conference officer for the Ventura County Superior Court for over 25 years.

WESTLAKE VILLAGE

Area firm awarded EPA business grant

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced a $300,000 Small Business Innovation Research) grant to Instrumental Polymer Technologies LLC in Westlake Village to produce low-cost, zero-emission polymers from sustainable materials into a water-based wood coating.

Instrumental Polymer Technologies has developed a process to produce dendrimers (molecules which branch out from a central point to form a spherical shape) from sustainable raw materials such as soy. The unique property of the dendrimers allows them to be applied as 100 percent solids, but they can disperse in water for easy cleanup. They will create a smooth, high gloss finish reducing sanding and buffing. The company will develop the concept into a low-cost, high performance product that manufacturers of wood coatings can use as substitutes for typical polyurethane coatings derived from petroleum.

For more information about the program, visit http://www.epa.gov/ncer/sbir.

To share news about your company or business-related organization, email dajustesen@VCStar.com. If there is an event involved, please email the information at least three weeks in advance of the event.

Leaders Seek Probe of NYPD Shooting

Wall Street Journal U.S. News - November 22, 2014 - 4:10pm
Civil-rights leaders and elected officials joined the family members of an unarmed man shot and killed by New York City police earlier this week, demanding changes in policing methods and a thorough investigation

Classes, speakers and other events planned

Ventura County Star Top Stories - November 22, 2014 - 4:06pm

Camarillo

Donations help ‘Shop with a Cop'

Members of the Ventura County Sheriff's Office will meet with 60 underprivileged youth at the Camarillo Target for the third annual Shop with a Cop event at 8 a.m. Dec. 6.

The young people selected to Shop with a Cop will each receive a $100 Target gift card to peruse the store for holiday gifts. To raise funds for the Target gift cards, donations can be made at http://www.vcsheriffsfoundation.org or by mail to the Ventura County Sheriff's Foundation, Shop with a Cop, P.O. Box 3312, Thousand Oaks, CA 91359.

Oxnard

Festival to benefit local organizations

The Oxnard Tamale Festival will run from 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Dec. 6 at Plaza Park, 500 South C St.

Admission is free. Proceeds will support Oxnard City Corps and other recreation programs.

For more information, visit http://www.oxnardtamalefest.com or call 766-4906.

Simi Valley

Event to help burn holiday calories

The Simi Valley YMCA will have the seventh annual free Turkey Burn Off from 8 to 11:30 a.m. Friday at 3200 Cochran St.

Participants can take part in a series of 30-minute, group exercise classes, with new sessions starting every 30 minutes. Classes include spinning, Pilates, yoga, muscle conditioning, cardio fusion and strength endurance.

For more information, visit http://www.sevymca.org/simivalley and click on events, or call 583-5338.

Thousand Oaks

Faculty member to read, discuss book

California Lutheran University faculty member Jacqueline Lyons will read and discuss excerpts from her book, "The Way They Say Yes Here," in Ullman Commons 100 on campus, 60 W. Olsen Road.

Lyons' three-year stint in the Peace Corps in Lesotho inspired the poems.

To RSVP, contact Stephanie Hessemer at hessemer@callutheran.edu or 493-3161.

Ventura County

Bravo Awards to recognize women

The annual Bravo Awards, honoring outstanding women in Ventura County, will accept nominations through Dec. 31.

The 2015 winners will be announced in mid-January and honored at a gala luncheon March 20 at the Serra Center, 5205 Upland Road, Camarillo.

The event is put on by the Ventura Chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners.

Email bravoawards@nawbovc.org for guidelines and application package.

Staff reports

Colleen Cason: A grateful heart for Thanksgiving

Ventura County Star - Local News - November 22, 2014 - 4:00pm

What happened to David Eckerson on a recent Saturday morning gives chilling new meaning to the word halfhearted.

The Ventura chiropractor sat alone along the bike trail to Ojai weighing which was more likely to save him: calling his wife or 911?

Minutes before, the 56-year-old Eckerson had been pedaling along when a pain shot across his chest, up his neck and into his jaw. He felt like he was going to pass out.

He found his way to a bench and sat trying to calm his heart rate.

“This isn’t a heart attack,” he thought. “I’m in good physical condition.”

He tried to get back on his bike and nearly fainted.

In this unsteady state, he reasoned the commotion of the public-safety response to a 911 call would set his heart racing. So he called his wife, Tracy, but did not tell her about the suspected heart attack.

Still, something about his voice made Tracy hurry up. She scooped up Bonnie, their puppy who is too young to be left alone, and headed up Highway 33.

The moment he called “the kaboom” struck while he waited for her.

“Everything in life can change in a second,” he thought. Eckerson prayed he would live to see his oldest daughter, 24-year-old Mallory, married. She got engaged only a month ago.

Tracy found her husband 25 minutes later, hunched over and barely able to pull himself into the passenger seat of the SUV.

When they arrived at Community Memorial Hospital, emergency room personnel took one look at him and hooked him up to an EKG machine. The test showed the right side of his heart was not working.

Ten years earlier, doctors inserted a stent in his artery to correct a heart defect he had since birth. They prescribed him medications, which he decided against taking. As a chiropractor he believed in supplements and a healthy diet.

Now the stent was completely clogged and no blood was flowing to half of his heart.

He was taken to the cath lab to get it repaired. While on the table, a nurse pasted paddles to his chest to resuscitate him in case his heart stopped.

Tracy sat in the waiting room holding the puppy in her lap. Hospital personnel said it would be OK to keep Bonnie with her until someone could pick her up.

Neither she or her husband suspected what was about to happen.

Eckerson’s heart stopped. He was conscious and not sedated. The doctor ordered the nurse to shock him.

“It felt like an atomic bomb went off in my body. I felt the jolt from my scalp to my toes. My body rose a few inches off the table,” he recalled.

His heart would stop and be restarted twice more. Eckerson recalls the room went white from the intensity of it.

He was wheeled into intensive care for monitoring. Tracy sat by his side trying to help him stay calm as his heart sputtered back to life. The new stent was doing its job.

Three days later Eckerson was back home with a lot to think about.

Although a tough pill to swallow for a chiropractor, he vows to take the medicines the doctor prescribed to keep the stent from clogging.

He also promises to be more insistent with his patients that they get fit. He believes he survived only because the other side of his heart is strong.

Tears welled up in Eckerson’s soft blue eyes as he thought about how close his wife and daughters were to being without him on Thanksgiving.

Tracy says a “small but very thankful group” will gather at their table: their daughters Mallory, Kelsey and Megan along with Eckerson’s dad, Don.

Tracy jokes she is most grateful she didn’t know about Eckerson’s heart stopping until after he was revived, because she would have gone into cardiac arrest herself.

Growing serious, she tells me she is thankful to the doctors who gave her more time with her husband.

She also plans to make a change. Now when her husband asks her to take an evening walk with him, she’ll go even if she’s tired after working all day.

For himself, Eckerson has a new prescription for happiness: “I will live the rest of my life with more zeal, more optimism, more hope and less fear.”

There is nothing halfhearted about that.

Email Colleen Cason at casonpoint101@gmail.com.

Farmers markets ready for Thanksigiving

Ventura County Star Top Stories - November 22, 2014 - 4:00pm

Fresh food star of Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving for home cooks and farmers market aficionados is kind of like the Super Bowl of holidays.

This is the day where food is the only star. No distracting songs or gifts to get in the way.

It's also time to get to the farmers market to get the best treats for your Thanksgiving feast.

For the past few weeks I've been squirreling away herbs (thyme and sage are my favorites), potatoes, squash, celery, oranges, nuts and one of my personal favorites — sweet potatoes, otherwise known as yams.

Real yams aren't found in the United States. They are actually common in Africa and are starchier than sweet potatoes. But we've been calling sweet potatoes yams for so long in this country, the name has stuck. Plus I wouldn't have such a great name for this recipe if I just called them "Yummy sweet potatoes."

I developed this recipe in the 1980s, back when the only yams/sweet potatoes served included marshmallows on top — something I found repulsive. This is a (somewhat) healthy take on a Thanksgiving side dish that grows in popularity.

Yummy Yammies

Ingredients

4-5 large yams

¼ - ½ cup unsalted butter softened

— Juice and zest of one large orange

¼ maple syrup (it's worth it to splurge and use the real thing)

½ cup toasted chopped pecans, divided in two halves — chop one half and keep the other half whole

¾ tsp. salt (kosher is best)

Directions

1. Peel and cut the yams into even, 2-inch by 1-inch pieces (cut the 1-inch circles in half that you get when slicing).

2. Boil in lightly salted water until soft and a fork goes through easily. Drain all water and put in large mixing bowl.

3 Add: ½ to 1 stick unsalted butter, softened.

4. Mix together with orange juice and zest, and maple syrup.

5. Add ¼ cup toasted pecans and salt and mix.

6. Set out in shallow ovenproof dish topped with additional ¼ cup toasted pecans (if you bought whole pecans, they work best here nicely arranged).

7. If made ahead, warm in 350 degree oven for about 20-30 minutes or until warmed through.

Find the markets

Sundays: 8:30 a.m. to noon, College of the Canyons (parking lot 5 via Rockwell Canyon Road off Valencia Boulevard), Santa Clarita (529-6266). 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., 300 E. Matilija St., Ojai (698-5555). 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Agoura Hills City Mall, Kanan Road (818-591-8286). 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Harbor and Channel Islands boulevards (includes a fish market), Oxnard (818-591-8286). 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Village Glen Plaza, between Agoura and Townsgate roads, Westlake Village (818-591-8286).

Wednesdays: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Pacific View mall parking lot facing Main Street, Ventura (529-6266). 3 to 7 p.m. Community Center Park, 1605 E. Burnley St., Camarillo (529-6266 or 482-1996).

Thursdays: 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Plaza Park at Fifth and C streets, Oxnard (385-2705). (CLOSED until January) 1:30-6 p.m., The Oaks shopping center, Thousand Oaks (529-6266). 3-7 p.m., Ventura Community Park, corner of Kimball and Telephone roads, Ventura (263-2907).

Fridays: 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Regal Cinemas/Civic Center Plaza, 2750 Tapo Canyon Road, Simi Valley, (643-6458). 3-7 p.m., The Village at Moorpark Shopping Center, southwest corner of East Los Angeles Avenue and Miller Parkway, Moorpark (479-9699); 4-8:30 p.m., Simi Valley Town Center, 1555 Simi Town Center Way. (368-1185).

Saturdays: 8 a.m. to noon, 2220 Ventura Blvd., Camarillo (987-3347). 8-11 a.m., fish market behind Andria's Seafood Restaurant, 1449 Spinnaker Drive, Ventura (644-0169). 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Thousand Oaks Library Newbury Park branch, 2331 Borchard Road, Newbury Park (323-272-9171). 8:30 a.m.-noon, Palm and Santa Clara streets, Ventura (529-6266).

Anne Kallas, Special to the Star

New dorm to ease overcrowding at CSUCI

Ventura County Star Top Stories - November 22, 2014 - 3:49pm

CSU Channel Islands is building another residence hall, part of its long-term plan to grow over the next decade.

The four-story hall, designed to house 600 freshmen and be energy-efficient, will ease overcrowding on campus, said Cindy Derrico, executive director for housing and residential education. Students will be housed in suites centered around a living room and kitchen.

“We know housing is very important to a great many students in making their decision to come to a university,” Derrico said. “It’s one of the factors in helping to support our growth.”

Channel Islands will have a groundbreaking for the hall at 11 a.m. Monday. The building is scheduled to be ready for students by summer 2016.

The Camarillo university plans to grow by 400 new students a year, potentially reaching 10,000 by 2025. To accommodate that growth, officials aim to add labs and lecture halls, a health center, recreation center, conference and events building, larger dining hall and performing arts venue.

“You have to think of the university as a small city,” said John Gormley, senior director of planning, design and construction. “You have to have a whole variety of services to support the growth and development of the whole university.”

The university intends to pay for the additional buildings using a combination of state funds, private donations and partnerships with community organizations.

The hall, which is estimated to cost $58 million, will be paid for with bond funds from the California State University system. Officials will use student housing fees to pay back those funds.

The university, which opened in fall 2002, already has outgrown its existing housing — two residence halls that together house 800 students.

During this school year, more than 1,200 students applied to live on campus, forcing the university to put three students in rooms designed for two, and two in rooms designed for one. Channel Islands also has leased apartments in the nearby University Glen neighborhood, as well as off campus.

Even with that overcrowding, only 20 percent of students live on campus, Derrico said. She’d like to increase that, because students who live on campus tend to be more engaged and more likely to stay in school, she said.

“We definitely want everyone to have at least one year of that experience,” Derrico said.

People planning to attend the groundbreaking are asked to RSVP at http://go.csuci.edu/srgb or call 437-3344.

Police arrest Simi Valley man

Ventura County Star - Local News - November 22, 2014 - 3:49pm

Police arrested a Simi Valley man in connection with possession of heroin for sale Friday, officials said.

Narcotics detectives served a search warrant at the man’s residence in the 3000 block of Penney Drive and located 7 grams of heroin, packaging material and other evidence of narcotics sales, authorities said.

Carlin Burris, 29, was arrested in possession of heroin for sale and booked into county jail. He is being held in lieu of a $50,000 bond.

Click here for more crime-related content.

Police arrest Simi Valley man

Ventura County Star Top Stories - November 22, 2014 - 3:49pm

Police arrested a Simi Valley man in connection with possession of heroin for sale Friday, officials said.

Narcotics detectives served a search warrant at the man's residence in the 3000 block of Penney Drive and located 7 grams of heroin, packaging material and other evidence of narcotics sales, authorities said.

Carlin Burris, 29, was arrested in possession of heroin for sale and booked into county jail. He is being held in lieu of a $50,000 bond.

Police search for missing Simi Valley man

Ventura County Star - Local News - November 22, 2014 - 3:33pm

Police continued asking for the public’s help Sunday morning in locating a missing Simi Valley man.

Augustine Macias, 74, was last seen Thursday morning near Tapo Street and Los Angeles Avenue after leaving his home for his daily walk.

Police said people in the area told the man’s family members they saw him walking westbound on Los Angeles Avenue later that day.

Macias may be disoriented and having trouble finding his way home, authorities said.

Anyone with information on Macias’ whereabouts is asked to call the Simi Valley Police Department at 583-6950.

Police search for missing Simi Valley man

Ventura County Star Top Stories - November 22, 2014 - 3:33pm

Police were asking for the public’s help Saturday in locating a missing Simi Valley man.

Augustine Macias, 74, was last seen Thursday morning near Tapo Street and Los Angeles Avenue after leaving his home for his daily walk.

Police said people in the area told the man’s family members they saw him walking westbound on Los Angeles Avenue later that day.

Macias may be disoriented and having trouble finding his way home, authorities said.

Anyone with information on Macias’ whereabouts is asked to call the Simi Valley Police Department at 583-6950.

Don't forget those student loans

Ventura County Star Top Stories - November 22, 2014 - 2:36pm

If you have a recent college graduate in your family, be sure that he or she is alert to student loan repayment schedules — some grads need to start repayments before the end of November, which is just a few days away.

The rule is that graduates must begin repaying their federal student loans six months after graduation, explained Mark Kantrowitz, senior vice president and publisher of Edvisors and author of "Filing the FAFSA."

Students who graduated in May need to start repaying their federal student loans in November. Those who graduated in June need to start repayments in December. That six-month period is a "grace period." After that, lenders contact students at the addresses they have on record. When students move, lenders attempt to locate them through their parents, but any delays or problems in reaching a student do not suspend or excuse repayment requirements.

So, students may find themselves in default, the consequences of which are severe.

The federal government can act without a court order to force repayment of defaulted federal education loans (federal Stafford loans, federal PLUS loans and federal consolidation loans).

According to Kantrowitz, "The federal government can also sue defaulted borrowers to seize assets such as bank, brokerage and retirement accounts, place liens on real estate and increase the wage-garnishment amount beyond the 15 percent administrative wage-garnishment limit. After all other attempts to collect the defaulted student loans have failed, the U.S. Department of Justice will sue to recover money from defaulted borrowers who owe more than $45,000 and who are more than four years delinquent. Borrowers who owe less than $45,000 may be sued by private attorneys working on contingency fees that are usually about a third of the amount recovered on behalf of the federal government."

Students who default also need to know that they will be charged for the cost of collecting the debt. As much as 20 percent of each loan payment on a defaulted federal education loan will be deducted for collection costs before the remainder of the payment is applied to the interest and principal balance of the loan, according to Kantrowitz.

Collection charges slow the borrower's progress in repaying the debt. A loan that would normally take 10 years to repay will take at least 14 or 15 years to repay at the same monthly payment after collection charges are deducted, said Kantrowitz.

Don't think about defaulting on purpose with the idea that the government will settle for a lower amount. The U.S. Department of Education hardly ever settles defaulted federal student loans for less than the full loan balance at the time of default, according to Kantrowitz.

There is help, however. The Department of Education can offer a repayment plan to help — for example, the extended repayment, income-based repayment and pay-as-you-earn repayment. Extended repayment increases the repayment term from 10 years to as much as 30 years, based on the amount owed. It bases the monthly payment on a percentage of the borrower's discretionary income, defined as the amount by which adjusted gross income exceeds 150 percent of the poverty line. PAYER is similar to IBR, but bases the monthly payment on 10 percent of discretionary income instead of 15 percent.

But, keep in mind that these programs may not be available after a student defaults.

Next week, let's talk about how to get a student organized to start repaying student loans.

Julie Jason, JD, LLM, a personal money manager (Jackson, Grant of Stamford, Conn.) and award-winning author, welcomes your questions/comments (readers@juliejason.com).

U.S. Spells Out Grounds for Action Against Taliban

Wall Street Journal U.S. News - November 22, 2014 - 1:53pm
The White House has authorized U.S. military forces to target Taliban militants in Afghanistan if they pose a direct threat to the U.S. or its military forces or provide support to al Qaeda, according to U.S. officials.

Immigration plan good, not great for economy

Ventura County Star Top Stories - November 22, 2014 - 1:15pm

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama's expansive executive action on immigration is good for the U.S. economy — just not as good as partnering with Congress on broader reforms.

Announced Thursday, the executive order would prevent the deportation of about 4 million parents and guardians who lack the same legal status as their children. By gaining work permits, they will likely command higher wages, move more easily between jobs and boost government tax revenues, according to multiple economic analyses.

"This is focused on people who are already in the economy today, who are contributing mightily but are basically operating in the shadows," said Raul Hinojosa-Ojeda, a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles. "Their economic potential is being held back."

The new order could boost labor income by $6.8 billion, helping to generate 160,000 new jobs and $2.5 billion in additional tax revenues, according to estimates by Hinojosa-Ojeda. The findings dovetail with separate research showing that a 1986 amnesty measure raised incomes for illegal workers in the years that followed.

Still, any gains from the executive action would be modest in the $17 trillion U.S. economy.

White House officials estimate that the executive order would expand gross domestic product less than 0.1 percent a year over the next decades.

Along with the Congressional Budget Office, independent economists say growth would be much stronger with a broader overhaul that would more than double the number of illegal workers eligible for legalized status, in addition to reforms that would attract high-skilled immigrant workers who are more likely to lead and found new companies.

The Senate passed a measure last year to fix the immigration system, but it stalled in the Republican-majority House that favored a step-by-step approach. The CBO estimated the Senate-backed reform would have added another 0.33 percent annually to GDP growth.

The president's order "falls short of a comprehensive reform that would have a more sweeping effect on the economic landscape," said Joel Prakken of the forecasting firm Macroeconomic Advisers.

More substantial reforms could lift economic growth by an additional 0.24 percent a year — or about $41 billion — for the next two decades, according to an analysis that Prakken contributed to last year for the Bipartisan Policy Center. The reforms could also cut the federal debt by $1.2 trillion over the same period, increase home construction, lift wages and add 8.3 million workers to the economy.

A broader overhaul would also create a framework for attracting more immigrants, which would mute the negative economic impacts of an aging population. As more Americans retire, the percentage of the population with jobs has slipped, limiting the ability of the economy to expand.

But the executive order would do little to promote additional immigration, nor would it fully address the concerns of technology companies looking for high-skilled foreigners.

Obama's plan does not raise the current annual limit of 65,000 so-called "H-1B" visas for skilled workers, although he promised to streamline some of the rules governing them. Scientists, engineers and computer programmers all earn higher wages than the comparatively low-paid workers who would be helped by Obama.

Silicon Valley entrepreneur Mike Galarza knows the issue first hand. A native of Mexico, he described a daunting bureaucratic obstacle course to obtain a visa that allowed him to launch Entryless, an online business accounting startup, last year in Menlo Park, California. Now he's struggling to find talent. Galaraza said he recently lost a job candidate with a Ph.D. in computer science because there were no more H-1B visas available.

"The U.S. is not welcoming enough to entrepreneurs who want to create value for the American economy," Galarza said. "I'm glad if (Obama) is able to help those 5 million people, but he needs to focus on the issue of tech workers and foreign entrepreneurs, as well."

Groups such as the Center for Immigration Studies have critiqued the benefits of adding immigrants, noting that many U.S. citizens are still searching for work more than five years after the Great Recession ended. By giving these workers legal status, it will inevitably help their earnings prospects but do little for the rest of the economy, said Steven Camarota, the organization's research director.

But the business community disagrees, saying they need immigrants in order to expand their operations.

In response to Obama's executive action, Buffalo Wings & Rings estimates it would be able to add five restaurants to its more than 45 franchised outlets.

"For us, it's an opportunity," said Philip Schram, executive vice president of development at the Cincinnati-based chain.

A 2013 survey by the advocacy group Small Business Majority showed 84 percent of small business owners are in favor of immigration reform. Owners believe it will help them have a more stable workforce, especially in industries like agriculture, hotels and restaurants, said the group's CEO, John Arensmeyer.

The obstacle has been that jobs in agriculture don't appeal to people born in the United States, so Jim Gilbert, owner of Northwoods Nursery in Molalla, Oregon, hires immigrants to tend to the plants he grows and sells.

"There are not enough people to do the jobs we need to do," Gilbert said.

___

AP Business Writers Brandon Bailey and Joyce Rosenberg contributed to this report.

Cafe Society: Reduced-gluten brewery seeks funds

Ventura County Star Top Stories - November 22, 2014 - 12:30pm

In Ventura County, crowdfunding websites like Kickstarter and IndieGoGo have been used to bankroll a food truck, to grow an organic seed company, and to help a coffee-roasting company move out of its founders’ garage and into an opening-soon space in Newbury Park.

So why not see if one of them also will work for a brewery that hopes to make certified-organic, gluten-reduced ales in the Belgian style?

That’s the ultimate goal of John Gonzales, the Ventura resident who is behind Sessions Brewery and the IndieGoGo campaign to give it a $6,000 kick in the coffers by the Dec. 6 deadline. Depending on when and if it opens, Sessions Brewery could be the first certified-organic brewery in Central and Southern California, he said.

“Some people have said it’s a little early in the process to do this. But we wanted to find people who, like us, want to break the mold and do something that hasn’t been done before,” Gonzales said.

Born and raised in Carpinteria, Gonzales developed an early interest in “living sustainably, and living near the ocean” — goals that eventually included earning masters degrees in fish nutrition and aquaculture management at Purdue University and the University of Miami, respectively. At one point, Gonzales’ science background led to running genetics labs for the National Institutes of Child Health and Human Development in Bethesda, Maryland.

It also aided his interest in home brewing, which started “when I didn’t have enough money to afford beer,” Gonzales said with a laugh. When that interest turned serious, Gonzales accepted an unpaid, six-month internship at Crazy Mountain Brewing Co. in Colorado. There, he did everything from making sales calls to brewing an award-winning saison on a 20-barrel system.

Back in California, Gonzales and wife Leila Gonzales — a massage therapist who also is a senior researcher for the American Geosciences Institute — decided the time had come for a brewery that would give Leila and others with gluten intolerance an equal-opportunity place to enjoy a pint or two.

They don’t have a location in mind but hope to find one in Ventura. That would put Sessions Brewery in the same city as Surf Brewery, Poseidon Brewing Co. and Topa Topa Brewing Co., which has started construction of its brewery and tap room at the old C&R Blueprint building on Thompson Boulevard.

Nearing its 15th anniversary, Anacapa Brewing Co. in downtown Ventura recently earned enough online votes to be considered for a $150,000 grant from the Mission Main Street Grants project organized by Chase, Google and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The results will be announced in January.

Meanwhile, back at the apartment where Gonzales bottles his homemade dubbel, coconut porter and IPA-Belgian combo for meetings with potential investors, the Sessions Brewery campaign is approaching the 50-percent-funded mark. It has about 40 contributors and the endorsement of the San Diego-based reggae band Tribal Seeds. Its members put Gonzales in touch with a film crew and loaned a song, the aptly named “Fill It Up,” for use in the brewery’s IndieGoGo pitch video.

“I see that as validation; the product is worth their support,” Gonzales said. “You get a lot of ‘no’s, and some ‘yes’s are fluff. They really put themselves out there for the brewery.”

For information about Sessions Brewery, click on its website at www.sessions-brewery.com.

For information about the brewery’s funding campaign, go here.

OPEN, SHUT AND IN BETWEEN: After a by-invitation event for friends and family, NOM Tequila Grill opened Wednesday at what used to be C Street Restaurant inside the Crowne Plaza Ventura Beach hotel. The name refers to the Norma Oficial Mexicana designation given only to distilled agave spirits made in Jalisco, Mexico — but the menu by executive chef Luis Martinez also is meant to get diners nom-noming on regional dishes served in the restaurant’s “casually upscale” setting.

Those dishes include guacamole borracho (made with morita chilies and blanco tequila and served with freshly made tortilla chips, $9), barbacoa beef taquitos with cotija cheese and tomatillo salsa ($12) and pork picadillo chile rellenos with warm house-made tortillas ($15). Desserts include a tres leches raspberry cake with prickly pear sauce and Impossible Cake topped with vanilla flan cake and Kahlua sauce ($7 each).

Made in Jalisco by Oxnard optometrist Adolfo Murillo, Tequila Alquimia Don Adolfo extra añejo is among the selections available for a create-your-own flight of three top-shelf tequilas ($55). Cocktails include the NOM signature margarita made with El Jimador silver, agave nectar and fresh citrus juices ($9.50) and its big sister, the Mega-Rita (28 ounces, $19). Hours are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays (450 E. Harbor Blvd., 652-5151,nomtequilagrill.com).

The Golden Egg Cafe in midtown Ventura (2009 E. Main St., 641-2866) has hatched a second location in the Seabridge Marina Center in Oxnard. Formerly the home of Cafe Nefola (now in Ventura), the space has been remodeled by café owners Ramiro and Alicia Hernandez to move the kitchen to a back area, creating more room for tables. Both locations feature butter-yellow walls and a breakfast-and-lunch menu of pancakes, raisin-dotted cinnamon rolls, quiches and tri-tip omelets. Specials include chilaquiles ($9.75), just spicy enough to wake you up before that first sip of morning coffee. The Oxnard site has a back patio with views of the docks. Hours are 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily (1651 S. Victoria Ave., Suite 120, 985-6383).

But in Old Town Camarillo, the sale of the Bella Victorian Winery & Bistro has fallen through. The alcohol license transferred to the prospective new owner, leaving original owners Jerry and Kimberly Monahan without a license of their own for the location. Obtaining a new license will take more than a month, hence the “Opening January 2015. Happy Holidays! Love, The Monahans” sign taped to the front door, said Kimberly Monahan. The plan is to reopen with chef Andrew Pedroza back to oversee what is possibly the smallest — but most creatively productive — kitchen in Ventura County (2135 E. Ventura Blvd., 383-8800; check Facebook for updates).

In Ojai, the Signal Street location vacated by Osteria Monte Grappa when it moved to Ojai Avenue last December has been claimed as the future home of NoSo Vita. Named for a mashup of “nothing, “something” and the Latin word for “life,” the combination espresso, wine and tapas bar is intended to “provide an environment where people can come and create who they are,” said co-owner Sean Mason.

A former chef turned estate-planning attorney, Mason is closing his practice to focus on NoSo Vita with wife Felicia Mason, whose family operates Bonnie Lu’s Country Cafe in Ojai. When it opens — possibly as soon as early December — NoSo Vita will feature cold-brewed and other coffees from Goleta-based Caribbean Coffee Co. It also will have a menu by consulting chef Marcus Hollingsworth, who was the reopening chef for Ojai’s Ranch House when it changed hands this spring. The beer and wine license could be in place by mid December, Mason said (205 N. Signal St.).

But first: Smashburger will open to the public at 10 a.m. Wednesday near the Promenade section of the Camarillo Premium Outlets (660 E. Ventura Blvd., Suite 200, 482-5400, smashburger.com). Already open in the complex are Chipotle, PizzaRev and Pick Up Stix.

TAKING TEA: ’Tis the season for Plaza Pantry of Ojai to super-size the afternoon teas it typically only serves on the first Wednesday of every month. A native of Dover, England, owner Beryl Tognazzini will present the holiday teas from 1:30-3 p.m. on Dec. 3, 13, 17 and 20. The menu includes finger sandwiches, miniature mince pies, English Christmas cakes with marzipan frosting, and a choice of house-made scones with jam and cream or crumpets with house-made lemon curd. Festivities start with the opening of Christmas crackers; the wearing of the paper crowns inside is entirely up to you. Required reservations are $15 per person (221 E. Matilija St., Suite G, 646-6325).

Lisa McKinnon is a staff writer for The Star. Her Cafe Society column also appears Fridays in the Time Out section. For between-column updates, follow 805foodie on Twitter and Instagram and “like” the Facebook page VCS Eats. Please send email to lmckinnon@vcstar.com.

Coupon sites to save $4B for holiday shoppers

Ventura County Star Top Stories - November 22, 2014 - 11:00am

An overwhelming majority of shoppers will turn to a coupon website this winter.

Eighty percent of American consumers will log onto websites such as RetailMeNot, Zulily or Coupons.com specifically for holiday shopping. Those careful shoppers will save an estimated $5 billion total this year, according to a survey of just more than 1,000 shoppers conducted by RetailMeNot.

That number is up from $4 billion estimated by the website’s experts in 2013. Total estimated holiday spending for 2014 is up as well. The National Retail Federation predicts $616 billion will be spent this year, that’s a 4.1 percent jump from its expectations last year.

“Based on what we’re seeing with the slight uptick in the job and stock market, I thought it would jump about 3-to-5 percent,” said Trae Bodge, senior lifestyle editor at RetailMeNot. Bodge said the NRF’s predictions “tend to be pretty accurate.”

Deal websites allow consumers to look at in-store ads and receive digital coupons that can be saved to their phones before going shopping. Bodge said websites like hers help people save not only cash but time, by helping to organize a shopping trip.

Such websites may prove especially useful for America’s busiest shopping day, providing Black Friday ads before they hit newspapers. “For stores that have price protection policies, buy the item you want a few days before Black Friday and then go back to the store when things slow down and get your price adjustment,” advised Scott Kluth, founder and CEO of the website CouponCabin.

“Finding the right deal may take a little extra time but using the study, we found shoppers were able to trim nearly 26 hours across the holiday season by using deal websites,” Bodge said. “People are saving an average of $20 per transaction on deal sites — we calculated that consumers could save over $200 an hour on RetailMeNot.”

Clint Davis is a writer for the E.W. Scripps National Desk. Follow him on Twitter @MrClintDavis.

Evacuation expected to be lifted after explosion

Ventura County Star Top Stories - November 22, 2014 - 10:21am

A half-mile evacuation order was expected to be lifted by 4 p.m. Saturday after being off limits due to  a chemical explosion last Tuesday near Santa Paula.

In a multi-agency  town hall meeting Saturday at Santa Paula Community Center, government and law enforcement officials told about 60 business owners, workers and residents that they were allowed to open up and resume business but to be prepared with an evacuation plan while crews worked on the clean up phase.

Farmers west of the explosion site were asked to limit their work to irrigating and maintaining their crops but to avoid harvesting new crops until soil sample results came out.

The Ventura County Agricultural Commissioner's Office was expected to receive the results by Sunday but they would be analyzed the earliest Monday, said Deputy Agricultural Commissioner Korinne Bell.

A sample plan was in the work on Saturday to determine the chemicals the cause the explosion, said Environmental Health specialist Glenn Austin. The results for those samples were expected by Wednesday the earliest if not later.

The number of business affected the incident was not provided but a list with the business expected to open Saturday afternoon would be posted  at http://vcemergency.com, said Kevin McGowan with the Ventura County Sheriff's Office of Emergency Services.

This story will be updated.

2 arrested on suspicion of DUI

Ventura County Star - Local News - November 22, 2014 - 8:22am

Ventura police officers arrested two people on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol at a checkpoint, officials said.

Police setup the checkpoint on westbound Thompson Boulevard at California Street between 8:45 p.m. on Friday through 2 a.m. Saturday, officials said.

In addition to the two arrests, three were cited for driving with no driver's license and one driver were cited for operating a vehicle with a suspended or revoked license, officials said.

Police also towed three vehicles for miscellaneous vehicle violations, officials said.

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