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News Briefs 

August 30-September 5, 2006

TB's still here

It may sound like something from centuries past, but tuberculosis is still a public health concern, whether the venue is school playgrounds, hospital hallways, poorly ventilated offices or anywhere else folks gather in close proximity. "Some people think TB has disappeared, but it still remains a problem, so they need to keep it on their radar screens," says Terry Somers, a public health nurse for Marin County. Tuberculosis was once the leading cause of death in the United States. While the number of cases has dropped dramatically, the ease of global travel and the evolution of drug-resistant strains means the disease is still a threat. In 2005, Marin County had 10 cases of TB. Sonoma County recorded 11 incidents and Napa County had three cases in 2005. In 2004, California's statewide rate was 8.2 per 100,000 people, well above the national average of 4.9. "TB is problem people should be aware of," says Dr. Karen Smith, Napa County's public health officer. "It's frequently misunderstood, but it does occur in our society." The TB bacteria usually attacks the lungs, but the kidneys, spine or brain can also be targets. For details, visit

No butts

(Aug. 16), Santa Rosa will impose one of the nation's strictest smoking bans effective Dec. 1. But critics charge that the new law targets mostly teens, poor people and the homeless, who have few spots to smoke other than public spaces. Wine industry insider Hans Dippel, founder of the annual CigarBQ fundraising event, is part of the opposition. "I don't oppose a smoking ordinance," Dippel explains. "I oppose this ordinance because there are so many loopholes. It's a bad law. It's absolutely a bad ordinance." Dippel says the next step may be seeking a court injunction based on the law's unconstitutionality.

Mitchell offline

Behind the scenes at the Point Reyes Light, the saga continues to unfold with soap opera-like grace. Three weeks ago, a judge issued a temporary restraining order prohibiting the newspaper's former owner, Pulitzer Prize winner David Mitchell, from writing for or assisting in any way the Bodega Bay Navigator, which is now produced entirely online. Since May Mitchell has been under a permanent, three-year injunction to stay away from current Point Reyes Light owner David Plotkin, Plotkin's family and the newspaper's offices. Last fall Plotkin paid $500,000 for the newspaper, with an agreement that Mitchell would act as an adviser and not work for a competing publication in Marin County. Plotkin and Mitchell had a falling out, and the spat hit the courts. An Oct. 6 court hearing will examine whether the Bodega-based Internet publication violates the noncompetition contract.


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