Friday, 19 July 2024


John Gray (center) and his attorney, Kevin Ikuma (right) during Monday's court appearance. Photo by Harold LaBonte.



LAKEPORT – A Kelseyville man arrested late last month on a murder charge was back in court on Monday.

John Robert Gray, 43, was in Superior Court Judge Richard Martin's courtroom for arraignment on allegations that he murdered his roommate, 37-year-old Eric James Joaquin.

The District Attorney's Office also has filed special allegations against Gray for allegedly inflicting great bodily injury in a violent felony and use of a deadly weapon.

Joaquin's body was found on Feb. 28 at the home that he had shared with Gray and some other roommates in the Clear Lake Riviera, as Lake County News has reported. Gray was arrested later that day at his girlfriend's Kelseyville home.

The preliminary cause of Joaquin's death, based on an autopsy conducted last week, is that he died of multiple blunt force trauma.

Gray initially had been arraigned March 3 but the hearing was continued and he did not enter a plea to the charges.

On Monday he was represented in court by Bay Area attorney Kevin Ikuma.

During the proceedings, Ikuma told Martin that he was not prepared to enter a plea for Gray due to the fact that he had not yet received any of the police reports or any other discovery information from the Lake County Sheriff's Office and the District Attorney's Office.

Ikuma requested a continuation until April 10 at 1:30 p.m., which District Attorney Jon Hopkins supported, explaining that he, too, has not reviewed all the evidence or the results of the ongoing investigation.

Judge Martin granted the defense request and ordered that Gray remain in custody with bail continued at $500,000.

Hopkins said afterward that he will continue to handle the case.

“I am waiting for all completed forensic evidence reports,” Hopkins said. “I will review these reports and make further determinations based on that information.”

Hopkins would not elaborate about the investigation or whether the case against Gray will allege that he acted alone or with someone else.

He also wouldn't offer additional details relating to Joaquin's cause of death.

“An exact cause and weapon used has not yet been forensically determined at this very early stage of the investigation,” Hopkins said.

E-mail Harold LaBonte at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


SAN JOSE – California Water Service Group has announced net income of $39.8 million, up 28 percent or $8.6 million for the 2008 fiscal year.

Diluted earnings per share were $1.90, up 27 percent or $0.40 per share compared to $1.50 for the same period last year.

The company owns the water district in Lucerne. In 2006 Cal Water received a 121-percent increase in rate for Lucerne after initially seeking a 246-percent increase, as Lake County News has reported. Many area residents were able to receive rate reductions due to being low income.

Cal Water's revenue for 2008 was $410.3 million, increasing 12 percent or $43.2 million over revenue of $367.1 million for 2007.

Revenues for 2008 included an additional $42.0 million from rate increases and $4 million in sales to new customers.

The net effect of the Water Revenue Adjustment Mechanism (WRAM) and Modified Cost Balancing Account (MCBA), that went into effect July 1, 2008, increased revenue by $2.0 million.

Sales to existing customers declined $2.2 million while other decreases accounted for $2.6 million.

Total operating expenses increased 9 percent or $29.9 million to $352.8 million for the year. Of this amount, water production costs increased 6 percent or $7.7 million to $146.6 million.

Other operations expense increased 10 percent or $10.1 million to $110.6 million, due primarily to increases in health and welfare plan expense, professional and other outside services costs, and additional water treatment expenses.

Maintenance expense increased 3 percent or $0.6 million to $19.0 million. Depreciation increased 11 percent or $3.8 million to $37.3 million for the full year.

Net other income decreased $4.6 million for the full year primarily due to no significant property sales during the year and a negative mark to market adjustment of $3.8 million associated with long-term investment assets held by the company.

According to President and Chief Executive Officer Peter C. Nelson, California Water Service Group's greatest achievements in 2008 were those related to implementing the California Public Utilities Commission's Water Action Plan.

“Receiving recovery of reasonably incurred costs was critical to this year's results, as was implementing both a WRAM and an MCBA which allows us to promote water efficiency,” Nelson said. “We also made some key acquisitions, made important and necessary infrastructure upgrades, and continue our focus on improving the way we serve our customers.”

In July 2008, the California Public Utilities Commission approved California Water Service Co.'s 2007 General Rate Case filing, authorizing rate increases of $33.4 million for eight districts, and an additional $13.7 million in 24 districts for general office expenses.

Additionally, the company requested recovery of increases in "offsettable" expenses, including purchased water, power, and pump taxes, and others were made to recover incremental cost increases and certain capital expenses incurred in the districts in between the three-year General Rate Case cycle.

Also in 2008, the CPUC approved the company's request for a WRAM, which effectively decouples water sales from revenues, as well as a tiered rate structure for most California districts.

Having a WRAM effectively removes a major disincentive for the company to pursue and promote water efficiency and conservation.

In the same decision, the CPUC approved an MCBA, which will enable the company to capture changes in costs resulting from utilizing different sources and volumes of supply. Both mechanisms support principals expressed in the CPUC's Water Action Plan, which reflects best practices in water utility regulation.

Pursuant to the CPUC's Rate Case Plan, the company will file a General Rate Case in 2009 for all California districts, including general office, with a scheduled effective date of Jan. 1, 2011; if the decision is delayed, the company will seek interim rates and recovery of lost revenues resulting from any delay. Subsequent General Rate Cases will be filed for all California districts every three years.

The most significant growth in 2008 occurred in Hawaii, beginning with HWS Utility Services' acquisition of multiple water and wastewater operations contracts on the island of Hawaii.

In the second quarter of 2008, Hawaii Water Service Co. received approval from the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission to acquire a wastewater system serving approximately 800 customers in the community of Pukalani on the island of Maui.

In the third quarter, Hawaii Water completed its acquisition of Waikoloa Resort Utilities, Waikoloa Water Company Inc.and Waikoloa Sanitary Sewer Company Inc., which together provide water utility services to 1,970 customer accounts and wastewater services to 300 customer accounts on the island of Hawaii.

Finally, in the fourth quarter, Hawaii Water completed its acquisition of a water and wastewater system serving approximately 250 customers in Kukio on the Island of Hawaii.

Additionally, in California, the company agreed to acquire Skyline County Water District, a 465-connection system adjacent to Cal Water's Bear Gulch District, and signed an agreement to purchase the Woodside Mutual Water Co., another adjacent system serving 43 customers.


CLEARLAKE – A Clearlake man being sought in connection with an incident last week in which he pulled a gun on another man has been arrested.

William Harold Cressey, 22, was arrested late Saturday by a Clearlake Police officer, according to jail records.

He was booked into the Lake County Jail on charges of misdemeanor possession of controlled substance paraphernalia, felony possession of a controlled substance and a felony warrant for allegedly being a fugitive from justice. The warrant has resulted in a no-bail hold on his status.

Cressey led sheriff's deputies and California Highway Patrol officers on a lengthy afternoon chase around a Clearlake Oaks quarry on March 3, as Lake County News has reported.

He allegedly pulled a gun on a Forestville resident who found Cressey and another male subject at a work site storage container on Round Mountain in Clearlake Oaks. Deputies and officers responded to the scene, chasing Cressey, who variously drove a green Ford Explorer and a dirt bike.

Capt. James Bauman of the Lake County Sheriff's Office told Lake County News last week that Cressey had a warrant for a parole violation out of Colorado.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Cole Lusby ran businesses both here in Lake County, in Las Vegas, Nev., and Klamath Falls, Ore., before his December arrest. Photo from his MySpace page.



LAKE COUNTY – A young man who was raised in Lake County and formerly operated a business here before moving to Oregon has been arrested on a battery of charges including rape and using the Internet to lure young girls to have sex with him, with additional bad check cases awaiting him in Nevada and here in Lake County.

Cole Richard Lusby, 23, was arrested in December in Klamath Falls, Ore. He lived with his family for a time in Upper Lake, where he is reported to have graduated from high school in 2002.

Sharon Forster, a Klamath County deputy district attorney handling Lusby's prosecution, said he was arrested on two counts of rape in the first degree, one count of burglary in the first degree, two counts of custodial interference in the first degree (which means interfering with the lawful custodian or parent of a child), online sexual corruption of a child in the first degree, one count of misdemeanor custodial interference in the second degree and two misdemeanor counts of third degree sexual abuse.

He's also facing misdemeanor counts of resisting arrest and escape because he allegedly escaped from authorities after his initial Dec. 5 arrest, said Forster.

Two days after his escape, Lusby was discovered at the home of his mother, Terry Lee Lusby, 56, who also was arrested for harboring him.

Forster said there are also some other cases pending against Lusby for allegedly ripping off people through online sales of items.

Cole Lusby remains in the Klamath County Jail on $500,000 in bail, said Forster. He's set to go to trial on March 25.

If he's found guilty of the rape charges, he could receive eight and a half years in Oregon state prison, Forster said.

Lusby's attorney in Klamath Falls, Steve Hedland, did not return calls seeking comment.

Forster said Lusby is set to go on trial in Oregon on March 25.


Terry Lusby died Feb. 16.

A trail of legal issues

The legal problems for Lusby and his mother aren't limited to Klamath County. Officials say he's facing legal prosecution in Lake County and Las Vegas as well.

Lusby, a former Upper Lake resident, had made a name for himself as a promising young businessman, operating a company called Techos LLC and Techos Business Center, based in Lucerne, that specialized in Web site design.

He had made pitches to local organizations, including the Clear Lake Riviera Community Association, to build their Web sites. The Riviera association said they didn't end up using Lusby's services.

But the Northshore Business Association did, and got burned, said President Kenny Parlet.

“He pretty much left us hanging,” said Parlet.

Parlet said Lusby had built a Web site for his Lakeview Market in Lucerne, and also had done work for the Lakeport Regional Chamber of Commerce and other well-known local business people.

Parlet said Lusby offered to do the work for the association, but nothing ever came of it. The association's Web site went inactive for a time as a result.

In the mean time, Parlet said he began steering people away from Lusby, who he said had had a juvenile record for using other people's credit cards to make online purchases, and had done juvenile time.

“He really burned some big, serious bridges,” said Parlet.

Lusby allegedly went beyond just letting down local businesses and groups.

Tina Dawn-Rubin, co-owner of the Mystic Barrel gift shop in Nice, lost money to Lusby.

She told Lake County News that Lusby approached her in 2007 with a proposal to take part in a local advertising brochure he said he was creating for local businesses.

Dawn-Rubin said she gave him $285 for the product, which she said he never produced.

She said she later confronted him, and said Lusby told her he didn't mean to scam her. But he also didn't give back her money.

Lusby's activities allegedly took a more serious bent, impacting a local nonprofit.

Andy Weiss, founder and station manager of KPFZ 88.1 FM, said the station hired Lusby in 2007 to develop the community radio station's computer system.

“Contracts were signed, and money was exchanged,” said Weiss. “However, Mr. Lusby failed to fulfill his part of the agreement.”

Weiss said Lusby never provided the computer equipment nor installation provided for in the contract.

“Many attempts were made to contact Mr. Lusby over a several month period – and his responses were confusing and unsatisfactory, and ultimately KPFZ was burdened with a $6,000 loss due to this situation – the equipment never provided, the work never done,” Weiss said.


In October of 2007, Lusby posted an online message to his customers that informed them that Techos Business Center closed its doors at the end of the previous August.

“We have not however, shut down the operations of our business all together. We have simply moved back to a more home-based business. During this transition, we have fallen behind in contact with many of our customers and for this I apologize,” he wrote. He encouraged anyone with questions to e-mail him “and I will do my best to resolve any issues that I can.”

His message continued, “We are currently going through many changes and currently many of our business operations are being focused out of Las Vegas, NV with new services and industry focuses. As soon as more information is available, Techos Customers will be mailed information about all that Techos is becoming. If you would like to be a part of this mailing, please send me an email as well,” Lusby wrote.

In Las Vegas, according to his MySpace page, he enjoyed visiting the casinos. One picture he posted showed him with a large wad of cash in one hand.

His MySpace page, which the Klamath County District Attorney's Office is alleging he used to lure young teenage girls to meet him, stated that is occupation is “ruling the world,” with his income listed between $75,000 and $100,000.

He also listed a quote from “South Park” creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone: “Sometimes what's right isn't as important as what's profitable.”




Cole Lusby showing off some of the money he said he had won at a casino in Las Vegas, Nev. Photo from his MySpace page.



Numerous allegations involve bad checks

While he was in Las Vegas, he is alleged to have passed checks with insufficient funds. The Clark County, Nev., District Attorney's Office told Lake County News that it has two active cases against Lusby, both of which are scheduled to appear in court in May.

The first case, a misdemeanor for $325 in checks, was filed against Lusby in April of 2008, according to the office's records. The second case, a felony, was filed in July of 2008, and is for $6,265 in checks Lusby allegedly passed with insufficient funds.

From Las Vegas, he moved to Klamath Falls. There he opened a business titled Fat Cat Technology, specializing in Web design. The company was listed as a member of the Klamath County Chamber of Commerce.

But the Klamath County Chamber of Commerce told Lake County News that Lusby's business – which came in suddenly, was up and running and then disappeared – ceased being an active member in February of 2008 after Lusby made a $70 payment toward a $150 membership.

The chamber also began receiving complaints about Fat Cat Technology, which was failing to fulfill work orders and keeping computers that customers were paying to have fixed.

Case alleges use of MySpace page

In August of 2008, Lusby was on the agenda for the Klamath Falls Parks and Cemeteries Advisory Board, where he was to have offered a proposal to place security cameras in the city's parks.

Forster said that the case against Lusby alleges that, during this time, from Aug. 1 to Nov. 26, he was using his MySpace pages to lure young females into having sex with him. Those alleged actions gave rise to the online sexual corruption charges against him.

“It hadn't been a real long, ongoing thing,” she said.

From Aug. 1 through Sept. 30, the alleged actions that led to the two counts of first degree rape were taking place, said Forster.

During this time, he appears to have become involved with a young woman who also had lived in Lake County before moving to Oregon.

Seventeen-year-old Jennifer Ussery was blonde, blue-eyed and fresh-faced, and from Lusby's own account, the love of his life.

Pictures of the two of them together were featured in the online photo gallery on his MySpace page.

The situation in Klamath Falls appears to have begun to started unraveling for Lusby in October of 2008.

Forster said Lusby was arrested on Oct. 11, 2008, for aggravated theft in the first degree. He is alleged to have opened up bank accounts at Southern Oregon Federal Credit Union and US Bank and deposited checks into the newly opened accounts without funds to cover them. He also was arrested on a fugitive complaint from Nevada, where the other bad checks cases are outstanding.

Jennifer Ussery's 20-year-old brother, Aaron, was believed to have been involved in the check scam, but he offered evidence and no charges were filed against Aaron Ussery, Forster said.

Forster said Aaron Ussery, along with his sister, allegedly came to bail Lusby out in October of 2008. Aaron Ussery allegedly bailed Lusby out with money that had been used in the check scam. Officials believe Jennifer Ussery was not involved in the fraudulent activities.

Lusby was again scheduled to make an in-person presentation to the Klamath Falls Parks and Cemeteries Advisory Board to land a contract for park cameras on Nov. 6, 2008. Officials also reported waiting for a written proposal from Lusby.

However, he didn't make that meeting. The likely reason: On Nov. 3, 2008, Jennifer Ussery, 18 at the time, was killed in Klamath Falls when her brother Aaron allegedly drove her on her paper route for the Klamath Herald and News, and crashed into an irrigation canal at about 5:30 a.m. that day.

Aaron Ussery, who – according to the Klamath Herald and News allegedly was drunk at the time and unable to get out of his Chevy Blazer to call for help – is facing felony charges “of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence, driving under the influence, driving while addicted to a drug and being under the influence of a controlled substance,” the newspaper reported.

On Nov. 15, Lusby posted a goodbye letter to Jennifer Ussery on her memorial MySpace page.

Calling her “my beautiful princess,” Lusby said out of the blue he'd lost “not only lost the love of my life, but also my best friend.”

“You are more than just my better half; you are my entire life. I don't know how to move on without you. Having you in my life has made the last couple years the best and happiest of my life,” he wrote.

His letter said Ussery had told him that she wanted to move to the coast with him and get married in the spring of 2009. “We said we couldn't wait to spend the next 70 years together.”

Within weeks Lusby would be arrested on the long list of charges he's facing in Klamath County.

Fat Cat's number is no longer in service, and its Web site has been taken down.

Within the past month Lusby's MySpace page also was deleted.

Lake County case also pending

Yet another case is awaiting Lusby in Lake County.

Lake County District Attorney Jon Hopkins confirmed that a case involving bad checks was filed against Lusby with his office. He said he asked the Lake County Sheriff's Office for more information.

Captain James Bauman of the Lake County Sheriff's Office confirmed that Lusby has one pending case with the department, a forgery and conspiracy case from August of 2008.

That case finds Lusby and his mother, Terry Lusby, once again implicated together.

Bauman said Terry Lusby allegedly deposited a little over $9,000 in fraudulent checks into her account with Westamerica Bank in Upper lake. Cole Lusby then allegedly cashed several checks, withdrawing a total of $7,200 from the account before it was determined the deposited checks were bogus.

The case, according to Bauman, was filed in December with the Lake County District Attorney's Office. Bauman confirmed that Terry Lusby also was a suspect in the case, which is being reviewed by a Lake County Sheriff's Office investigator.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Before I return to my discussion of the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT), a brief comment on the state. I mentioned in the last article that new laws are making their ways through congress; the same happened in Sacramento. The state has announced some of their tax changes. Like the federal government, these announcements are short on details.

The state has the choice of following the federal law, ignoring the federal law for state purposes or making their own law. Even if the state follows the federal law, they may not be exactly the same.

A perfect example is the AMT. California has the AMT, but it has never been a problem since they have always indexed the exemptions, while the federal government has not done this.

Another example is retirement plans. California has retirement plans like the federal but in many years has had different rates. The capital gains tax is an example of California going its own way, as they simply do not recognize capital gains tax.

The state has announced that refunds will be delayed if there is not enough cash in the bank. One solution to waiting is, if you get a refund on your 2008 state taxes, is not to take them in cash but to apply it to your 2009 taxes. Of course, this depends on how much you need the cash. This is also a great idea, if you are subject to the above mentioned AMT. It seems the AMT is never far from the discussion on taxes.

As the governments announce their proposals, we need to remember several points. These are proposals, when finally passed they may not exactly look like they do today. If they do make it though the legislative maze and do look exactly as they are proposed, then we have the detail to review. As a common saying goes, “The devil is in the details.”

Lastly, how will these be implemented?

It is clear that the financial rules we’ve lived for so many years are changing. During these times of a slow economy, it’s easy to take the easy road and say, “It’s too hard, it doesn’t matter what I do,” and “I’ll just wait and see what happens.”

These are not good enough attitudes for this year and beyond. It’s never been more important to commit to taking time to start planning and being aware of what rules and regulations are “coming down the pike.” The repercussions of not knowing and just see what happens have never been so severe. Now is not the time for not knowing, but for action.

Some of the major state changes are:

– Sales and use tax rates increase by 1 percent on April 1. While this tax increase will hurt, it must be noted that the state did not make matters worse by changing the law to make labor and service charges subject to sales tax. Not only would this would have been a huge cost to businesses and individuals but would of added much complexity to business transactions. (I won’t make any comments on the date they choose to start the increase despite pressure to make a pun or joke about it.)

– New homebuyer credit will be established. Not sure of the details nor if it will conform to the federal credit. The federal credit has been extended to the end of 2009 and is available for those who have not owned a primary residence for 36 months.

– Vehicle fees will be increased by 1 percent and vehicle registration fee increased by 0.15 percent starting on May 19.

– The exemption credit will decrease to the same amount as the personal credit for tax years 2009 and 2010. This will really hit families very hard. The exemption credit for 2008 is $309 for dependents and $99 for the taxpayers. This is a difference of $210 per dependent and as a credit this is a direct increase of tax.

– There will be an increase in the personal income tax rate by 0.25 percent or 0.125 percent depending on the federal stimulus revenue.

– A tax credit for small businesses, with fewer than 20 employees, hiring new employees.

While some of these are very harsh, there were some increases that were not approved. These measures below seem much harsher than the above.

The major proposals that did not pass were:

  • Gas tax increase;

  • 5 percent surtax on income tax rates;

  • Sales tax on services;

  • Withholding in independent contractors.

It is clear from the above that government is intent on raising tax revenue and that increase is coming from us. This is the time to take action to protect your personal and retirement assets, not the time to just let what happens happen. We need to watch what the new laws mean, continue to save and even to invest in your retirement plan.

I’ll continue more in the next article focusing on the federal changes.

Jon Meyer is a local Tax Accountant and Enrolled Agent with over 25 years experience in tax preparation. The office of Jon the “Tax Man Meyer “also offers retirement planning and insurance options. Questions regarding this article can be directed to 928-5200.





Being a gardener, mead brewer and occasional resident of the planet, I have a love of honeybees and the honey they produce.

You may have heard in the news that honeybees are disappearing at an alarming rate and that we should all be very afraid of the consequences. Albert Einstein is credited with a now infamous quote that if the honeybee disappeared from the planet mankind would be extinct within four years.

I can happily say that my genius is so great that I can knowledgeably disagree with Einstein’s opinion on the subject. I’ll admit it’s pretty easy to argue with someone who is dead and can’t defend their comments; nevertheless, I shall present you with my evidence to ease your troubled mind.

Reports on the cause of the honeybee disappearance vary from Colony Collapse Disorder to honeybee HIV to deadly mites. There are even reports that cell phone signals cause honeybees to get lost and never make it back home. With all this happening it seems we’re doomed before I can even start on the problem. Let me explain what’s going on.

Colony Collapse Disorder is the catchphrase used to describe what is happening to all of the honeybees, but there is no one thing that anyone can point at and say, “THIS is what is happening!” Colony Collapse Disorder is just a label used for the sake of discussion. As of now nobody has found any single definable reason that is causing beehives to lose 30 percent to 70 percent of their population in a short period of time.

Getting an explanation about the theories of Colony Collapse Disorder from a group of beekeepers is like asking how to fix the economy from a roomful of economists: you’ll get a lot of stories and theories but in the end be no closer to knowing what to do.

There are certain symptoms that occur to let you know that your beehives are suffering from Colony Collapse Disorder but nobody can say why the process occurs. It’s like trying to explain why Ryan Seacrest is famous: he just is, but nobody can explain how he did it or why he’s still around with any reasonable justification.

Some laypeople have coined the term “honeybee HIV,” as if giving the condition a more frightening name will cause people concern and spur them into action. Honeybee colonies are susceptible to many pests and diseases, including some viruses, but not anything that attacks the immune systems in a way similar to HIV. The average beekeeper is aware of the illnesses that afflict honeybees and can treat for all of them.

Colony Collapse Disorder and bee HIV have been blamed for the loss of entire colonies of bees. Although many reports talk about beekeepers losing massive numbers of bees, this “disorder” doesn’t seem to be as prevalent in wild bees or hobbyists’ colonies.

One apiarist (beekeeper) I spoke to said it is found most commonly in the large commercial beehives that are driven across California’s Central Valley and other massive orchard areas.

The bees are taken by truck to one location and released to forage and pollinate. At sunset they return to their mobile hive, and overnight are driven to a new location to be released again. Often the fields they visit don’t provide enough food for the entire colony to survive so the beekeepers supplement their food with sugar water.

The apiarist I spoke with compared this treatment of commercial bees to being a traveling salesman who spends his working life flying across the country eating junk food all of the time; after a while he would naturally become run down and sickly.

Now call me crazy, but running these migrant bees off their wings day in and day out and feeding them junk food just makes conditions ripe for these poor bees to collapse but that wouldn’t explain all of the problems.

Another thing might be a tiny species of mite called a Varroa mite that can climb onto a honeybee, feed on it and eventually kill it. When the bee dies the mite moves to the next bee or larvae in the hive. Enough of these mites can destroy an entire colony, and these mites are now spreading across the United States.

The European honeybees that American beekeepers currently raise are very susceptible to this mite. Asian and African honeybees are known to remove and kill mites as infested honeybees enter the hive. The Asian style of beehives is different from western hives and it allows for more interaction between the bees, which in turn provides more of a chance of a mite being seen and removed. So even if every bee in the US dies from mites, Asian honeybees can fill the gap.

The idea of cell phones affecting a honeybee's ability to find its way home is laughable at best. We have known for a long time that when a honeybee locates a plentiful food source like a field of clover, she (all of the bees you see collecting nectar and pollen are female; yes, yes, women of all species have it rough, they are under-appreciated martyrs, fine, I get it) returns to the hive and does a dance that tells the other girls how to find the field by using the position of the sun. Experts in bee behavior can actually watch this dance and tell you where the bee is guiding the others to go. So unless cell phones are changing the position of the sun, this theory doesn’t even qualify as junk science.

So there is some confusion about what’s causing the bees to die off, some ideas bogus and inflammatory, and some ideas legitimate. Just for argument’s sake, how about we assume the absolute worst? Bee HIV-infested mites using cell phones manage to kill every honeybee on every continent.

I still don’t have any worries; we’ll be fine. Why am I so confident? I mean, besides having the ability to outthink nuclear physicists? Why, when Albert Einstein says mankind would be extinct in four years, do I rest easy at night?

First of all, honeybees aren’t native to North America and yet pollination has been occurring here without their production skills for longer than man has been on this continent. Many things pollinate plants. Orchard Mason bees are excellent pollinators and I recommend them for every gardener. They can even be purchased to improve pollination in your home garden. They are smaller than a housefly and fairly docile. Their sting is milder than that of honeybees, being merely annoying with the pain dissipating almost instantly after a sting (I know from experience).

Bumble bees also are first-rate pollinators that are very docile, and they are very easy to see buzzing about your garden. Bumble bee homes are also available to purchase to encourage a colony on your property. There are also species of flies, moths, bats and rodents that pollinate plants.

Pitcairn Island also will save us. The descendants of the mutineers on The Bounty have a honeybee industry that is a source of income for the island, and they can boast the only completely disease-free honeybee population in the world.

Since the island is in the middle of the Pacific Ocean their bees can’t intermingle with other honeybees and contract any of the diseases they may have. So if all of our bees die off, they can slowly but surely re-supply the planet with their extra queens once our problems are dealt with. Keep in mind they don’t accept bee-related donations in order to stay disease free. You can purchase Pitcairn Island Honey on the Internet to support their community at

Now, even if all these methods weren’t enough, if faced with extinction mankind has a special knack for preventing that very outcome. I’m sure we would see advertisements on daytime TV for “colleges” promoting their new “flower pollinator” degree.

A while back I spoke to a bee removal company about taking down a hive in a tree near my home. They said that due to all the factors that are afflicting bees these days and the fact that nobody is medicating them, the colony would no doubt die off on its own within two years. It’s now three years later and the hive is still there and going strong. There are also several more trees with hives in them in my neighborhood. So that (in a small anecdotal way) disproves that it is affecting ALL the honeybees.

About 20 years ago there was a lot of concern about the disappearance of bees and many bee removal services were removing wild bees from homes and properties for free so they could keep the bees for themselves. This practice is no longer followed and people are often stunned when beekeepers quote prices to remove swarming bees. The reason is that the market for these bees just isn’t there like it was in the past. It’s like calling someone to remove a skunk from your house: there isn’t really a market for secondhand skunks so you’re going to have to pay for its removal.

Now that I have made my case and have proven that I have a brain the size of the planet, but before I go on to disprove Einstein’s theory of relativity and show that it’s actually ME the solar system rotates around, I will have to confess one thing. There is no evidence that Albert Einstein ever actually made any quotes about honeybees; it’s just an Internet rumor like Nostradamus predicting 9/11 or that Nigerian princess who wants to give you millions of dollars if you will simply cash a check for her. So relax. Bees or no bees, Colony Collapse Disorder or just a life cycle, we’ll be OK.

Ross A. Christensen is an award-winning gardener and gourmet cook. He is the author of "Sushi A to Z, The Ultimate Guide" and is currently working on a new book. He has been a public speaker for many years and enjoys being involved in the community.


LAKE COUNTY – With World Tuberculosis Day set to be observed later this month, local health officials are sharing information about the disease and its prevention.

World Tuberculosis Day will take place on March 24.

Lake County Health Services is joining in the efforts of the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and California Department of Public Health to promote partnerships for tuberculosis elimination.

Tuberculosis (TB) is a contagious disease that can be spread when people are sick with TB in their lungs.

A global health problem, it is estimated that 1.6 million people died from TB in 2005, according to a Monday report from Lake County Health Services. Although the greatest number of cases occur overseas in areas such as Africa and Southeast Asia, tuberculosis is also present in the United States.

Nationally, there has been a reduction in TB cases from a total of 84,304 in 1953 to a total of 13,299 in 2007.

In California, there were 2,725 cases, with the highest rates per population occurring in San Francisco, Imperial and Santa Clara counties.

Even though California has successfully reduced its number of cases of active tuberculosis disease in recent years, the trend toward further reductions has slowed.

Global travel, the presence of debilitating health conditions, and the development antibiotic resistance are all challenges to the control of tuberculosis.

Approximately three quarters of the TB cases in California are in foreign-born persons from countries where tuberculosis is more common.

Health conditions that break down the immune system, such as HIV/AIDS or treatment with immune-suppressing drugs, can lead to activation of disease. Development of antibiotic resistant strains of TB makes treatment more difficult.

Overall, 11 percent of California TB infections were resistant to the most commonly used anti-tuberculosis drug in 2007. Smaller percentages, generally around 1 percent, were resistant to other drugs commonly used in the treatment of TB.

Other challenges to controlling tuberculosis center on the need to treat it with multiple antibiotics (as many as four to six, depending on circumstances) for many months (six months minimum and sometimes more than 24 to 36 months). Preventive treatment of latent TB usually only requires one antibiotic drug, but it must still be taken for six to nine months.

Lake County had only one active case in 2007, ranking 34 out of a list of 45 of California’s reporting jurisdictions, Lake County Health Services reported.

Local health officials said Lake County’s low numbers should not lead to complacency. It takes a lot of work behind the scenes to prevent active tuberculosis.

Many people who come into contact with tuberculosis in the course of their lives develop a latent form of infection – they are neither sick nor infectious to others. However, over time or if their general health status deteriorates, the latent infection can turn into an active and contagious infection.

Keeping tuberculosis out of the community involves screening people who might be at risk for it, and treatment with anti-tuberculosis medication to reduce the chance of it causing illness in the future.

When an active case does occur, vigorous tracking down of contacts and appropriate treatment of them is essential. In the treatment of active tuberculosis disease, Public Health professionals often administer and observe patients taking each dose of treatment to assure that the full course of treatment is completed.

Throughout the year, Lake County’s Public Health Department works with local health professionals and other partners to assure that this important work is done.

If you would like more information about tuberculosis, please visit or

For assistance with tuberculosis questions in Lake County, call Lake County Health Services at 263-1090.


Firefighters responded to a structure fire on Island Circle Drive at about 11:40 a.m. Saturday, March 7, 2009. Photos by Sam Colman.

CLEARLAKE KEYS – A Saturday morning fire damaged a Clearlake Keys home.

The fire was reported by a neighbor at around 11:30 a.m., said Northshore Fire Protection District Battalion Chief Pat Brown.

Brown said the fire was in one room on the top floor of a two-story duplex.

Three fire engines – one each from Northshore Fire's Clearlake Oaks and Lucerne stations, and one from Lake County Fire Protection District in Clearlake – responded, along with 16 firefighters, Brown said.

He said the first engine on scene pulled supply and hand lines and got quickly to work.

“It was knocked down very fast,” said Brown.

Brown added that, had the fire burned for another few minutes, it could have taken out the duplex's entire top story.

No one was in the home at the time, Brown said, noting the home – which he guessed is about 30 years old – is up for sale.

The fire climbed up one wall, and left heavy charring on that wall and on the floor joists, Brown said.

He estimated damage to be between $20,000 and $30,000.

As to the cause of the fire, Brown said, “We ruled it as accidental. We think it was wiring in the wall.”

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


T. Watts at the KPFZ microphone. Courtesy photo.


After a couple of semesters at Willamette University ending in the spring of 1969, I returned to Hayward, Calif., and attended Chabot College for a few quarters. I had a great friend at that time by the name of Walter Pittman.

One day during a Black Student Union program, in strode Walter Pittman with Big George Forman. Mouths dropped open. Your CyberSoulMan thought it was due to some profound utterance he had stated. You see, I was standing at the podium, reciting for the assembled audience some self-composed poetry.

When I realized that my oral musings had been preempted by the presence of the then-recently turned professional, 1968 Olympic Heavyweight Champion, I got a little steamed. I turned up the heat and directed my diatribe toward George.

A little explanation is due here. Judge not thyself, CyberSoulChildren! Perhaps only wizened geezers like me remember the tenor of the times during the 19th Olympiad held in Mexico City.

When American sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos were awarded the gold and bronze medals for placing first and third along with second place and silver medal awardee, Australia’s Peter Norman, the demonstration of the African-American athletes at the podium during the playing of the national anthem caused an uproar heard around the earth.

According to a history of the Oct. 16, 1968, event by The Tommie Smith-John Carlos Project, Smith's “raised right black-gloved fist represented black power, the knotted black scarf around his neck represented pride, and the box in his left hand contained an olive tree sapling which stood as an emblem of peace. John Carlos’s raised left black-gloved fist represented unity in black America and the

beads around his neck signified lynchings suffered by blacks. Both men wore black socks but were shoeless during the ceremony to represent black poverty in racist America. Together they formed an arch of unity and power.”

The crowd booed men the men as they left the podium.


George Foreman won the Olympic gold medal for his heavyweight boxing prowess three days later. In celebration of his victory, Foreman danced around the ring with an American flag held high, seemingly disavowing the somber protest of Smith and Carlos.

So, in my youthful exuberance and agreement with the protesters, I kinda scowled at Big George that poetic day in 1969 in an effort to let him know that I was supportive of what Smith and Carlos had done at the Olympics.

When I left the podium, Big George walked up to me and said, “Hey, man. I really dig your poetry.”

BLAM. It was like a straight right to my temple. George Foreman had totally TKO’d me with kind words. We became pretty good friends.

Walter Pittman and I would hang out at George’s apartment. He intimated to us that he hoped Ali and Frazier would both retire before he got to the top. I remember once we were walking down Mission Boulevard just minding our on business. As we walked past the Ford Lincoln car dealership a very excited salesman ran up to us with jingling keys.

“George. George. Check out that Lincoln Towncar. Just check it out. Take your time. No rush. Just check it out.”

We piled in and took a Sunday drive to Oakland. Took our time. Ah, the perks of celebritydom. A Sunday drive in the middle of the week!

I eventually interviewed George for print media twice. The first time was when he was training for Kenny Norton. He was training at the fairgrounds in Pleasanton. It was my first time at a professional boxers training camp. All this machismo strutting and posturing. All these big, buffed dudes. Foreman had a cadre of sparring partners with different boxing styles. Then there was the wannabees. I remember one huge guy, walking around all puffed up, spouting believable nonsense.

“Where’s Foreman at? When I see him, I’m gonna knock his ass out!”

It was amazing theater. This cat looked like he could pull it off.

I remember George sparring with Stanford Harris and George hitting him so hard his protective headgear flew off. Wow.

I was able to be in the locker room with Big George, the great Archie Moore and George’s manager Dick Sadler.

After the training session was over George invited us to dinner. I never will forget that George had a medium rare steak and tossed salad with no dressing. I had brought my cousin Ronnie along to take pictures. When it came time to get a shot of George and I, my cousin wouldn’t take the picture. He was too scared! I ended up taking a picture of George and Ronnie. I was so mad I sold Ronnie a copy.

Some of you may remember the Rumble in the Jungle, Muhammad Ali’s rope-a-dope and George Forman’s loss of his heavyweight title in 1974. When he lost the second fight of his pro career to Jimmy Young in 1974, Foreman has stated he had a near-death experience in the locker room after the fight. George became a born-again Christian. He didn’t box professionally again for 10 years.

I interviewed George again on the comeback trail in 1990 after he TKO’d Gerry Cooney. Two things sticks with me that George said in that interview. The first is how he envisioned that he could win the Heavyweight Title again at age 40-plus.

“I took 10 years off from the ring. I wasn’t being pounded on physically and I treated my body well. No drugs or alcohol. A lot of young guys in the boxing game can’t say that. They train but damage their bodies and minds in and out of the ring. I believe my body is in the shape of someone in their late 20’s.”

Turns out he was right. The second thing that that I remember about the last time I interviewed George was what he said to me as we were saying goodbye, “Man, I still have a picture of you.”

That makes me feel pretty good.

Keep prayin’, keep thinkin’ those kind thoughts!


Upcoming cool events:

Blue Wing Blue Monday Blues. Hansen Raitt Band. Monday, March 9, 6:30 p.m. at the Blue Wing Saloon & Café. 9520 Main St., Upper Lake. 275-2233

The Paramount Theatre at 2025 Broadway in Oakland presents The Whispers, Stephanie Mills Howard Hewitt and Andre Williams on Friday, March 13. 510-465-4600.

Calling For Light: A Spring Concert of Poetry and Music. Carolyn Hawley, piano, plays Chopin and original works. Accompaniment to poetry. T. Watts, accompaniment on trumpet. Lake County Poets Laureate Mary McMillan, Sandra Wade, Carolyn Wing Greenlee, James BlueWolf and Jim Lyle. Sunday, March 15, 3 p.m. Galilee Lutheran Church, 8860 Soda Bay Road, Kelseyville. Tickets cost $10 in advance at Watershed Books, Lakeport, and Wild About Books, Clearlake. $15 at the door. Children free. A benefit for KPFZ 88.1 FM.

T. Watts is a writer, radio host and music critic. Visit his Web site at


SACRAMENTO – Top education, legislative and law enforcement leaders and others joined today to announce this year’s launch of Impact Teen Drivers, an exciting statewide awareness program designed to save the lives of beginning teen drivers by using a variety of engaging and dynamic educational tools.

The statistics prove that more action is needed to prevent teen deaths.

In addition to the high rate of teen drivers who are involved in a collision in their first year of driving, nationally the fatal crash risk per mile driven by 16-year-olds is twice that of 18- to 19-year-olds and about seven times the risk for drivers ages 30-59.

The Impact Teen Drivers program will coincide with Teen Driving Safety Week, which began Monday.

During Teen Driving Safety Week, California school teachers are being asked to share the materials that were delivered to every public high school in the state with students who are either just learning to drive or who have just received their driver’s license.

“The Legislature, by adopting resolutions authored by Sen. Allen Lowenthal (D- Long Beach), and Assemblymember Mike Eng (D-Monterey Park), saw the importance of bringing attention to the imperative need of reducing teen auto collisions – the No. 1 killer of our beginning drivers,” said Jon Hamm, president of Impact Teen Drivers and chief executive officer of the California Association of Highway Patrolmen, one of the founding sponsors of Impact Teen Drivers.

Impact Teen Drivers has also launched a Website ( with resources for teachers, interactive elements, fast facts for parents and teens and an interactive wall for people to create their own memorials to remember friends lost in collisions. MySpace and Facebook pages have also been developed.

Commissioner Joe Farrow of the California Highway Patrol (CHP), added, “Our officers tell us one of the most stressful parts of their job is when they have to tell the parents of a teen that their child was killed in an automobile crash. We are proud to play a role in this educational program that could reduce collisions, save motorists from injury or death and keep a parent or family member from receiving heartbreaking news.”

Impact Teen Drivers is excited to announce this year a new “Create Real Impact” classroom grant program. Many grants will be awarded to California high schools who find innovative and creative ways to use the Impact Teen Drivers program or materials. From a PSA put together by a video production class to a teacher-led school service project, Impact Teen Drivers will reward original and inventive ways schools use their program to reach teen drivers and help them make good decisions behind the wheel.

“This is an extremely smart approach,” Farrow noted. “Impact Teen Drivers is using teams to get this critically important message through to their peers. This is a win-win; the teen or classroom developing the messaging wins a grant and his or her classmates win by hearing a message that will change their driving behavior.”

“I want to applaud the groundbreaking work that all those involved with the Impact Teen Drivers program have accomplished. It is important to remember that there is much work to be done. The driver fatality rate for 16-year-old drivers is simply unacceptable. I look forward to working with law enforcement, educators and parents to ensure that we are doing everything we can to encourage safe teen driving and prevent these unnecessary tragedies,” said Assemblyman Mike Eng.

Impact Teen Drivers, prepared to meet the challenge, is also sponsored by the California Teachers Association and California Casualty Insurance.

The list of supporters also includes the CHP, California State Firefighters Association, the Peace Officers Research Association of California, and the Association of California Schools Administrators.

The program has a vast number of volunteers, including students who served as advisors in developing the program materials, teachers and parents of teens killed in crashes.


LAKE COUNTY – To say the news for business and the economy hasn't been great would be an understatement, so two local women have set out to give Lake County's businesses a boost by creating a new event. {sidebar id=131}

Karen Long and Kendra Runyon, who have their own company called Big Diva Promotions, last month decided to put together a new business expo to bring local businesspeople together for a day of networking.

The inaugural “Around the Lake Business Fair” will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, March 15, in the theater building at the Lake County Fairgrounds, 401 Martin St.

Admission for the public is free.

Long, who moved to Kelseyville from Healdsburg three years ago, said she and Runyon – both stay-at-home moms – started thinking about how to help boost the local economy.

“We came up with idea to do a women in business show, but then on a phone call to the bank I got the idea to make it about the businesses in the community and what Lake County has to offer the local consumers,” she said. “That's when we came up the the Around the Lake Business Expo.”

It's an effort that goes hand-in-hand with the growing call to shop and seek out services within one's own community.

The expo is open to all kinds of businesses. The promoters hope that the event will benefit everything from gift shops to accommodations, home-based businesses to banks, florists and more.

Since beginning work on arranging the expo, Long and Runyon has been encouraged both by the interest and the energy in the community. Connecting people and sharing ideas is a prime motivation for the effort.

Long and Runyon said there also will be door prizes and plenty of parking for community members.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


SACRAMENTO – California’s senior population is expected to double in size by 2020. From a traffic safety perspective, this translates to an increase in the number of older drivers, passengers and pedestrians using California’s roadways.

In addition, there will be a larger number of older adults whose health and other factors will force a

transition from driving to a reliance on other methods of transportation to accomplish daily living activities.

“It is imperative that we prepare Californians now for this growing demographic,” said California Highway Patrol (CHP) Commissioner Joe Farrow.

In an effort to deal with the increase and safely extend the driving years for mature Californians, a year-long grant totaling nearly $205,000 has been awarded to the CHP by the California Office of Traffic

Safety through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Through Sept. 30, funds from the Keeping Everyone Safe (KEYS) grant will be used by the Older Californian Traffic Safety (OCTS) Task Force to establish the senior driver safety/mobility pilot program within three-select CHP field Divisions.

The Divisions chosen, Golden Gate (Bay Area), Southern (Los Angeles Area) and Border (San Diego

Area), have the highest concentration of seniors (age 65 and over).

The program, modeled after the CHP’s highly successful traffic safety corridor approach, uses a multi-disciplinary, community-based task force within each division to identify senior population areas where moderate to high levels of collisions involving seniors occur and develop a plan to address this issue.

The plan includes a public awareness campaign using a variety of available tools to address older adult traffic safety/mobility issues.

“Through education and awareness presentations, we’re hoping to have a positive safety impact on California’s senior driver population. This whole program is about safety,” added Commissioner



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07.20.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
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