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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Did North Korea Attack the Rialto Cinema's Website?

Posted By on Tue, Dec 23, 2014 at 2:39 PM

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Update: The Rialto will be showing The Interview at 9:40pm starting Christmas.

No, they didn't but such are the times we live in.

I just read that a few theaters are going to screen "The Interview," pudgy faced North Korean dictators be damned. I was pleased to see that Berkeley's Elmwood Theater is one of the brave theaters to show the movie. The movie house is the sister of Sebastopol's Rialto Cinema. I wondered if they would show it in Sebastopol too but when I went to their website it was down. And when I checked the Elmwood site it was down too. Did North Korean hackers do it?

No, said Melissa Hatheway, the Rialto's director of marketing and community relations. Just a buggy server or something. Or maybe the the rush to buy tickets crashed the site.

Hatheway said it was easy to slot the movie in Berkeley because they had a one-off movie they could bump but no such luck in Sebastopol. The movie list was set and couldn't be rejiggered, she said.

Both sites are back online and everything seems cool for now. But I for one will remain vigilant against any moves from Pyongyang.

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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Attack of the $500,000 Tiger Salamander

Posted By on Tue, Jul 22, 2014 at 1:20 PM

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Poppy. Quail. Garibaldi. Gold. California has an official symbol for just about everything, and now there's a newcomer to the list: the California state amphibian is the red-legged frog, the frog made famous by Mark Twain's short story “Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.”

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife made the official amphibian proclamation July 15. “By declaring the California red-legged frog the official state amphibian of California, the Legislature and Governor acknowledge the species’ important place in the ecology, culture and history of California. It also broadcasts and reinforces the state’s commitment to protecting its rare resources, which include amphibians.”

It's listed as a threatened species, and almost canceled a fishing derby in Rohnert Park one year. But in the North Bay, there's another threatened amphibian that makes more headlines: the tiger salamander.

This dark, brightly-spotted creature can grow to about eight inches in length and can grow construction costs exponentially. The development community is well aware of this, as is the anti-development community—the poor little salamander is trotted out like a mouse in an elephant pen every time new development with big-box stores is proposed. Sonoma County is aware of this as well, as evidenced in an update about the proposed Moorland community park presented to the board of supervisors in March.

The park recently received a $471,000 state grant, but is seeking at least $1 million more in grant funds, and will need to match all those funds to complete the 4-acre park, officials estimate. Playgrounds, grass, goalposts and picnic tables all cost money, as does the property itself. But the California tiger salamander also costs money. “It is worth noting that the larger parcel has been identified as possible habitat for the California Tiger Salamander,” says the packet submitted to the board, “and it is anticipated that any type of development on that land will require mitigation with an estimated cost of $500,000.”

Looks like the red-legged frog gets the glory, but the tiger salamander gets the last laugh around these parts.

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Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Welcome to Gun Country

Posted By on Tue, Jul 8, 2014 at 3:53 PM

Protesters at a rally for Andy Lopez on Oct. 25, 2013. - NICOLAS GRIZZLE
  • Nicolas Grizzle
  • Protesters at a rally for Andy Lopez on Oct. 25, 2013.

What a country we live in: In open-carry states, a mostly white group of chubby second amendment “gundamentalists” have taken to carrying actual assault weapons into retail and fast-food outlets with not much pushback from police, while in California, a 13-year-old Latino kid gets shot and killed by police while openly carrying a toy gun in a semi-rough Santa Rosa neighborhood. Meanwhile, there’s a school shooting practically every week—and thus the battle lines are drawn between arming everybody and, gee, how about some sane gun laws?

Indeed, the Andy Lopez shooting last October has highlighted numerous disconnects in how American society is utterly failing to deal with unpredictable and sometimes foolhardy behavior by teens, within a larger edgy framework of school shootings and in a country that has clearly gone quite nuts over gun rights.

Sonoma County District Attorney Jill Ravitch entered the firearms firestorm this week as she took a pass on charging Sonoma sheriff’s deputy Erick Gelhaus with any crime in connection with the fatal 2013 police shooting of Lopez, who was shot by Gelhaus, an Army veteran, while carrying a replica AK47 in broad daylight.

Against a backdrop of lone-nut school shootings by mostly young white men of a certain disposition (angry, weird and relatively well-off), and within the larger national argument over gun rights in open-carry states, the Lopez shooting flatly underscored the limits of gun possession as a means of self-expression—what’s good to go at a Target in Texas is a total no-go in a poor and Latino Santa Rosa neighborhood.

Ravitch’s decision came after months of speculation and angry charges leveled at her office that she was slow-rolling the investigation of the October shooting out of a concern for her June electoral prospects. Yet Ravitch made quick work of her opponents in winning another term as district attorney.

The 52-page public report issued by Ravitch sheds some light into the great lengths she went to investigate the shooting free of political pressure, no small feat in a city that has been on edge for months, with activists vociferously demanding justice for Lopez and criminal charges against Gelhaus.

There’s two rough through-lines animating the Ravitch report: It emphasizes the obvious tragedy of a young man’s death, and signals empathy by repeatedly calling him “Andy,” even as the report essentially lays out an argument that Lopez played a major role in the events that led to his death.

Did Lopez “deserve” to die for disobeying police orders to drop the fake weapon?

Of course not!

But numerous John and Jane Doe witnesses contacted by police and investigators after the shooting corroborated Gelhaus’ version of the incident—in particular, the critical moment where Gelhaus and his partner Michael Schemmel told Lopez, twice, to drop the weapon he was carrying.

Instead of complying with the police order, the report says Lopez inexplicably turned to face the officers, and that as he did so, the barrel of the replica weapon started to rise, as though Lopez was prepared to shoot at the police. Gelhaus said he feared for his life, his training kicked in, and he shot at the teen eight times, hitting him with seven bullets fired over about two seconds.

There were a couple other key junctures, Ravitch argues in the report, where the entire episode could have been defused without bodily injury or death:

One John Doe witness told police he had warned Lopez from his car, moments before the fatal encounter, to drop the weapon because the police were right behind him, in a marked cruiser. Lopez ignored him and continued walking down the street.

The Lopez friend who gave him the replica weapon, John Doe #2, worried that the orange plastic muzzle-tip wasn’t on the gun anymore—and says he warned his friend about it. According to the report, John Doe #2 told a police officer, “he felt responsible for Andy’s death because he allowed Andy to borrow the gun even though the orange tip of the barrel was broken off, making it look real, although he’d told his friend not to take it since it was broken.”

And, the report notes that Lopez’ judgment may have been impaired because of the marijuana he smoked within 90 minutes of getting shot.

But it’s also true that Lopez was simply victimized by a “wrong place, wrong time” set of social constructs now wrenching at the core of American society—in particular, the rise of the angry and armed young man hell-bent on some kind of justice against a world that done him wrong.

One of the investigators hired by Ravitch, William Lewinski, noted in the report, tellingly, that “it is unfortunate that the single largest threat facing police officers today and the highest demand for police training is responding to the threat of an active shooter. Law enforcement may be more aware today than [any] other time in history of the threat from the lone, young man with a gun or a knife.”

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Monday, June 30, 2014

Facebook's 'Social Experiment' is, Literally, Bad News

Posted By on Mon, Jun 30, 2014 at 1:35 PM

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There's an adage that's particularly relevant in today's world of “free” technology: If you aren't paying for a product, you are the product.” And nothing highlights this better than a recent study by Facebook that manipulated users' news feeds to show mostly bad news.

The study with Cornell and UCSF was published June 17, and revealed that Facebook alterned nearly 700,000 users' news feeds to see how they respond to a deluge of negativity. The study was authored by members of Facebook's core data science team, UCSF's Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education and Cornell's Communication and Information Science department.

The meat of the study can be found in these excerpts:
For people who had positive content reduced in their News Feed, a larger percentage of words in people’s status updates were negative and a smaller percentage were positive.

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Friday, June 27, 2014

No Decision on Gelhaus Was Scheduled Today, Despite Rumor

Posted By on Fri, Jun 27, 2014 at 1:59 PM

Teens show support for Andy Lopez at a protest at the Sonoma County Sheriffs office earlier this year.
  • Nicolas Grizzle
  • Teens show support for Andy Lopez at a protest at the Sonoma County Sheriff's office earlier this year.

A rumor that a decision on the fate of Sheriff's deputy Erick Gelhaus is imminent is false, says Terry Menshek, media coordinator of the Sonoma County District Attorney's office.

Widespread emails and internet chatter said a press conference was scheduled for today at noon that would say whether charges would be filed against the deputy, who shot and killed 13-year-old Andy Lopez on October 22 last year when the boy's toy AK-47 rifle was mistaken for a real gun. “I've gotten a dozen calls, there was a rumor going around. It even got as far as Los Angeles,” says Menshek. “There was never one scheduled,” adding that this is the second time such a rumor has been started.

A timetable has not been set for an announcement on the case. “It's still under investigation,” she says.

Santa Rosa City Manager Kathy Millison sent an email Thursday to Santa Rosa City Council members and staff members about community outreach regarding the DA's announcement. The email details actions the city has taken in preparation of demonstrations surround the announcement and gives talking points to highlight when addressing the incident.

In the email, Millison says, “We don't know when that may occur and we'll learn of it at the same time as everyone in the community learns of it.” But in a handout sent as an attachment to that email, one of the assigned roles of the internal action plan is for the city manager to “email talking points to council as soon as decision is released.”

Jonathon Melrod, an attorney working with the Justice For Andy Lopez group, says a press conference was scheduled for noon today by the DA's office, but cancelled at the last minute. He says he doesn't know what the subject of the press conference was supposed to be, but that it likely had to do with a decision on Gelhaus. “The whole thing is bizarre to me,” he says.

Protocol in officer-involved shootings is to make an announcement regarding charges 90 days after the incident, which in this case happened on October 22. Critics say District Attorney Jill Ravitch was waiting until after the June 3 election, which she won by a wide margin. “She can't keep waiting,” says Melrod.

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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

DFW Skeptical of Record Coho Salmon Migration

Posted By on Wed, Jun 25, 2014 at 3:04 PM

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The coho salmon run in Marin County is bafflingly high this year. In a drought-stricken season with water being diverted from fish habitats to agriculture, this year's estimate of nearly 20,000 juvenile salmon made up the largest migration from Lagunitas Creek since the annual exodus started being recorded in 2006, according to estimates by the Marin Municipal Water District.

“We are a little bit skeptical,” says George Neillands, biologist with the Department of Fish and wildlife, “because it's an estimate.” He said the low water flow could throw off the count because fewer fish can avoid the trap, since there's less room to swim around them. “We take it with a grain of salt until we can really evaluate and review it,” he says.

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Thursday, June 19, 2014

SRJC Named in $15 Million Lawsuit

Posted By on Thu, Jun 19, 2014 at 4:21 PM

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As reported in the Bohemian June 4, former Santa Rosa Junior College nursing instructor Daniel Doolan is filing a second lawsuit against the school after winning over $300,000 in a case last year. It was reported today by the Press Democrat that he is seeking $15 million.

Doolan's lawyer, Dustin Collier, told the Bohemian he would be filing suit for the dismissal and denial of tenure status by the school in this second lawsuit, but had estimated the amount at $1.6 million. “There's a whole year's worth of allegations that weren't adjudicated yet,” he says of the first lawsuit. “For whatever reason, [a supervisor] started making allegations that he was a physical threat,” says Collier. “He is a big guy, about 6'3”, 6'4”, a little over 200 pounds, but he is a giant teddy bear.”

SRJC's vice president of human resources Karen Furukawa-Schlereth says the first case brought four charges: Gender discrimination; sexual harrassment; failure to prevent harassment; and defamation of character. A jury found in favor of Doolan on the defamation charge, awarding him over ten times the $25,000 he was seeking. “My recent info does look like we will be appealing the decision,” she says.

Meanwhile, Doolan's new case centers around his termination and what his lawyer refers to as “manipulation” of his tenure review process. All in all, Collier says his client has been set back about 10 years in terms of professional advancement.

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Thursday, June 5, 2014

Kashkari For the Win: Support Legalization, Bro

Posted By on Thu, Jun 5, 2014 at 5:59 PM

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California Republican gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari gave his party a major wingnut reprieve this week when he narrowly beat out Minuteman Assemblyman Tim Donnelly for the right — as the common parlance goes — to lose badly to incumbent Gov. Jerry Brown in November.

Kashkari slipped by Donnelly with a 4 percent margin, but both GOP candidates drew vote percentages in the teens, whereas Brown hogged up some 54 percent of the total vote cast.

Kashkari, a former Treasury Department official who has said he voted for Barack Obama in 2008, has emphasized low taxes, lots of fracking, expanding educational opportunities, and killing the SMART Train. Meh. He’s gonna have to kick it up a few notches if he’s got any chance here.

Did somebody just say, marijuana to the rescue?

At a campaign stop not long ago Kashkari said he didn’t support legalization, but also didn’t support the War on Drugs as currently waged. One surefire way to end the war, brother Neel, is to legalize marijuana!

What if — what if — Kashkari were to, as these things go, “study the issue a little more closely” in coming weeks before coming out in favor of legalization? He might start with recent polls that show at least 55 percent of Californians support legalization. He might then study Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper’s budget proposal that says legal weed in that state will bring in around $100 million in taxes this year.

Closer to home, Kashkari might study a Marijuana Policy Project’s statistic that indicates California is itself reaping over $100 million a year in taxes from its pot dispensaries. He might take a look at how California dispensaries will now operate under a single, statewide set of rules, with the help of law enforcement, and he might have a look at a Harvard study from a few years back that said prohibition costs taxpayers about $17 billion a year.

He might eat a chocolate bar with Maureen Dowd in a Colorado hotel room and freak out at the enormity of the opportunity to overtake Moonbeam with a Nixon-in-China move that would send every last freaking pothead in the state to the polls to vote for him!

Brown has already signaled opposition to legalization of the demon weed on the grounds that people will get lazy if they smoke it, costing jobs and productivity. Meanwhile, half the state is already getting baked.

It’s a lazy argument premised on a dumb stereotype. Try some sativa, governor, that stuff will keep you up all night working on your budget — or, just maybe, working on your plan to outflank Kashkari on the pro-pot tip if the moderate GOP candidate gets wise and supports legalization as a way to beat you.

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Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Bohemian Wins 3 CNPA Awards

Posted By on Wed, May 14, 2014 at 10:34 AM


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The Bohemian was a winner in the 2013 California Newspapers and Publisher's Association Better Newspapers Contest. Three times over.


First place, Editorial Comment - How We Represent by Gabe Meline

In this 2012 article, Gabe passionately and rationally argues for Measure Q, which would have allowed for district elections in Santa Rosa City Council elections. The measure ultimately failed, but perhaps in a bit of foreshadowing, Gabe points out that Roseland, an island of County jurisdiction in the middle Santa Rosa, doesn’t get to vote in any Santa Rosa city elections. Maybe measure Q will come back in another form, and pass, when Roseland is officially part of Santa Rosa.


Second place, Investigative Reporting - Wrung Dry by Rachel Dovey

This 2013 article brought Rachel to the outskirts of Marin County, where residents were paying over $600 per month for water in a time when the average home in the county was paying less than 20 percent of that. Residents were capturing shower runoff in jars to water plants. A private water utility company was running the show in their area, and residents were at their wits end with how to pay for life’s most basic need.


Blue Ribbon Finalist - Special Section (Best Of issue)

This groundbreaking issue took the idea that all newspapers will be forced to online-only formats, crumpled it up and threw it in the face of pundits who predict the death of print media. Our Magic and Illusion theme featured creative print-only ideas, like a Mad Magazine—style fold-in, an article printed backwards that had to be held up to a mirror to read, one printed as a swirling vortex, one printed in a way to force the reader to flip the paper over to experience the sensation the article was talking about, and other cool, print-only tricks.


Congratulations are in order to everyone who worked on these issues and stories. Alternative weeklies like us don't win many CNPA awards, since the organization includes all papers in the state, including big players like the Los Angeles Times and the San Francisco Chronicle. We even have our own national group, Association of Alternative Newsmedia (AAN) www.altweeklies.com that also does annual awards. CNPA says the plaques are being shipped to us soon, and though Gabe and Rachel are no longer with the paper, they’ve been informed of their achievements and are stoked. Totally stoked, to be exact.


The Bohemian won two CNPA awards last year as well: first place for Special Section and second place for Best Feature Story.


While on the subject of honors, Bohemian news editor Tom Gogola’s story on fracking is one of AAN’s top stories of the week this week. With hundreds of newspapers and thousands of stories each week to choose from, AAN picked ours. It’s a good indicator that we’re doing something right.


Here’s to continued success!

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Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Could Efren Carrillo be Reelected?

Posted By on Tue, May 13, 2014 at 3:36 PM

Efren Carrillo won’t be leaving his post as Sonoma County Supervisor anytime soon, unless public pressure mounts to a tipping point, says political analyst and Sonoma State University political science professor David McCuan.

His analysis comes despite incredible outrage from the public, his fellow board members and other politicians at Carrillo’s first meeting back on the board after being found not guilty of attempted peeking by a jury last month. At the meeting last week, Supervisors Mike McGuire, Shirlee Zane and Susan Gorin called for Carrillo to step down, and chairman David Rabbit stopped just short of joining them. “We can ask you to resign, but ultimately it’s up to you,” he said.

Even if it were unanimous, the board has no legal recourse here, says McCuan. Rabbit can rearrange Carrillo's schedule, maybe reshuffle his committee appointments, but “he’s clearly not going to do anything like that,” says McCuan.

What could jeopardize Carrillo’s next two-and-a-half years on the board, says the political analyst, is if his victim in the peeking case, currently known only as Jane Doe, reveals her identity. The victim “giving a personal face to the fear and absolute horror she felt” could raise public ire to the point a recall might be successful. Without that, McCuan speculates, the supervisor may even have a good chance of garnering reelection.

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