Tuesday, 23 July 2024


The January 7.0-magnitude earthquake that devastated Haiti’s economy and caused over 200,000 casualties also resulted in significant uplift of the ground surface along Haiti’s coastline, and involved slip on multiple faults, according to a study published online in Nature Geoscience.

Because the earthquake did not involve slip near the surface of the Earth, the study suggests that it did not release all of the strain that has built up on faults in the area over the past two centuries, and so future surface rupturing earthquakes in this region are likely.

The paper also suggests that similar events may be hidden from the prehistoric earthquake record both in Haiti and in other similar tectonic settings such as the San Andreas fault in California.

Gavin Hayes, a U.S. Geological Survey geophysicist, along with colleagues from USGS, California Institute of Technology, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), and the University of Texas at Austin, used a combination of seismological observations, geologic field data and satellite geodetic measurements to analyze the earthquake source.

Initially the Haiti earthquake was thought to be the consequence of movement along a single fault, which accommodates the motion between the Caribbean and North American plates.

By modeling the patterns of surface deformation, the team was able to assess which fault was responsible. Their results showed that the earthquake may not have been caused by the simple rupture of a single fault, but instead may have involved a complex series of faults.

The pattern of surface deformation was dominated by movement on a previously unknown, subsurface thrust fault, named the Léogâne fault, which did not rupture the surface.

Hayes, a post-doctoral researcher, is contracted to work for the USGS by Synergetic, Inc.

This is one of several papers to be published this month in a special issue of Nature Geoscience on the Haiti earthquake.

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To mark an unprecedented flurry of exploration which is about to begin, NASA announced Thursday that the coming year will be “The Year of the Solar System” (YSS).

“During YSS, we'll see triple the [usual] number of launches, flybys and orbital insertions,” said Jim Green, director of Planetary Science at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration headquarters. “There hasn't been anything quite like it in the history of the Space Age.”

Naturally, it's a Martian year.

“These events will unfold over the next 23 months, the length of a year on the Red Planet,” explained Green. “History will remember the period October 2010 through August 2012 as a golden age of planetary exploration.”

The action begins near the end of October with a visit to Comet Hartley 2.

On Oct. 20, Hartley 2 will have a close encounter with Earth; only 11 million miles away, it will be faintly visible to the naked eye and become a splendid target for backyard telescopes.

Amateur astronomers can watch the comet as NASA's Deep Impact/EPOXI spacecraft dives into its vast green atmosphere and plunges toward the icy core. On Nov. 4 EPOXI will fly a mere 435 miles from Hartley's nucleus, mapping the surface and studying outbursts of gas at close-range.

Later in November, NASA astrobiologists will launch O/OREOS, a shoebox-sized satellite designed to test the durability of life in space.

Short for “Organism/ORganic Exposure to Orbital Stresses,” O/OREOS will expose a collection of organic molecules and microbes to solar and cosmic radiation. Could space be a natural habitat for these “micronauts?” O/OREOS may provide some answers.

Bonus: The same rocket that delivers O/OREOS to space will carry an experimental solar sail.

NanoSail-D will unfurl in Earth orbit and circle our planet for months. Occasionally, the sail will catch a sunbeam and redirect it harmlessly to the ground below where sky watchers can witness history's first “solar sail flares.”

On Dec. 7, Japan's Akatsuki (Venus Climate Orbiter) spacecraft grabs the spotlight when it enters orbit around Venus.

The mission aims to understand how a planet so similar to Earth in size and orbit went so terribly wrong.

Venus is bone-dry, shrouded by acid clouds and beset by a case of global warming hot enough to melt lead.

Instruments on Akatsuki will probe Venus from the top of its super-cloudy atmosphere all the way to the volcano-pocked surface below, providing the kind of detailed information researchers need for comparative planetary.

“Take a deep breath,” said Green, “because that was just the first three months of YSS!”

The action continues in 2011 as Stardust NExT encounters comet Tempel 1 (Feb. 14), MESSENGER enters orbit around Mercury (March 18), and Dawn begins its approach to asteroid Vesta (May).

“For a full month Dawn will be able to see Vesta even more clearly than Hubble can,” said Green. “The only way to top that would be to go into orbit.”

And that is exactly what Dawn will do in July 2011: insert itself into orbit for a full-year study of the second-most massive body in the asteroid belt. Although Vesta is not classified as a planet, it is a full-fledged alien world that is expected to mesmerize researchers as it reveals itself to Dawn's cameras.

Next comes the launch of the Juno spacecraft to Jupiter (August), the launch of GRAIL to map the gravitational field of the Moon (September), and the launch of a roving science lab named “Curiosity” to Mars (November).

“The second half of 2011 will be as busy as some entire decades of the Space Age,” said Green.

Even then, YSS has months to go.

The year 2012 opens with Mars rover Opportunity running the first-ever Martian marathon. The dogged rover is trundling toward the heart of Endeavour Crater, a city-sized impact basin almost two dozen miles from Opportunity's original landing site.

“Opportunity is already under the influence of the crater,” said Green. “The ground beneath the rover's wheels is sloping gently down toward its destination – a welcome feeling for any marathoner.”

Sometime in mid-2012, Opportunity will reach Endeavour's lip and look over the edge deeper into the heart of Mars than any previous robotic explorer.

The only thing more marvelous than the view will be the rover itself. Originally designed to travel no more than 0.6 miles, Opportunity's rest stop at Endeavour will put it just miles away from finishing the kind of epic Greek run that athletes on Earth can only dream about.

Meanwhile, halfway across the solar system, Dawn will fire up its ion engines and prepare to leave Vesta. For the first time in space history, a spacecraft orbiting one alien world will break orbit and take off for another. Dawn's next target is dwarf planet Ceres, nearly spherical, rich in water ice, and totally unexplored.

The Year of the Solar System concludes in August 2012 when Curiosity lands on Mars. The roving nuclear-powered science lab will take off across the red sands sniffing the air for methane (a possible sign of life) and sampling rocks and soil for organic molecules. Curiosity's advanced sensors and unprecedented mobility are expected to open a new chapter in exploration of the Red Planet.

“So the end,” said Green, “is just the beginning. These missions will keep us busy long after YSS is history.”

Dr. Tony Phillips works for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

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LAKE COUNTY, Calif. – There's still time to register to vote, according to county election officials.

The Lake County Registrar of Voters Office is advising new residents of Lake County and registered voters who have moved to a new address, changed their mailing address within the county, or changed their name, that you may need to reregister in order to be eligible to vote in the upcoming statewide general election.

The last day to register to vote for the Nov. 2 general election is Monday, October 18.

The completed voter registration form must be either personally delivered to the Registrar of Voters

Office on or before Oct. 18 or postmarked on or before Oct. 18 and received by mail by the Registrar of Voters Office.

Section 2101 of the California Elections Code states, “A person entitled to register to vote shall be a United States citizen, a resident of California, not in prison or on parole for the conviction of a felony, and at least 18 years of age at the time of the next election.”

Residents may register to vote at the Lake County Registrar of Voters Office, Room 209, Lake County Courthouse, 255 N. Forbes St., Lakeport, or may phone the Registrar of Voters Office at 707-263-2372 for information.

Registration forms are also available at most local post offices, libraries, senior centers, city offices and chamber of commerce offices.

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Middletown's Jereomy Hoefer on a two-yard touchdown carry to give Middletown an early 7-0 lead over the Clear Lake Cardinals on Friday, October 8, 2010. Photo by Ed Oswalt.



MIDDLETOWN, Calif. – By a score of 42-0, the Clear Lake Cardinals of Lakeport fell victim to a decisively superior Middletown Mustangs football team in Middletown’s homecoming Friday night.


Amid pageantry that included a parade of floats, flag presentations by horses in full gallop and military personnel, and the crowning of the homecoming king and queen, the Mustangs ran up the score early in the game, leading 28-0 at the end of the first quarter.


“We just seem to be wrapping up the game in the first quarter in our last three games,” Middletown’s head coach Bill Foltmer said after the win.

The Mustangs have won their last four games, three of them shutouts.




Clear Lake quarterback Steven Edwards throws a pass against the Middletown Mustangs on Friday, October 8, 2010. He later left the game with an injury. Photo by Ed Oswalt.





Scoring highlights of the first quarter included a two-yard scamper by Jereomy Hoefer after a botched Cardinal punt attempt on their opening possession, a 32-yard dash by Middletown running back David Pike and a 15-yard screen from quarterback Kyle Brown to wide receiver Connor Chick, all resulting in touchdowns for the Mustangs.


Due to injuries and other factors, Clear Lake head coach Schad Schweitzer said his team was using their third string quarterback for most of the game against Middletown.


“We knew what we were up against,” Schweitzer said after the loss. “Today, Goliath won. David didn’t win.”


The Mustangs continued to dominate in the second quarter, when Pike took a handoff from Brown in Middletown’s opening drive and ran it six yards into the Cardinals' end zone for his second touchdown of the game.

After Danny Cardenas made his fifth extra point of the evening, Middletown held a commanding 35-0 lead going into halftime.




Middletown's Chris Oatman after one of his two receptions against the Cardinals on Friday, October 8, 2010. Photo by Ed Oswalt.




Foltmer noted Clear Lake had “a key lineman that was hurt” and due to injuries and other factors the Cardinals were “not the same team as they were earlier this year.”


The Mustangs scored quickly to open up the third quarter, capped by a 57-yard run by David Pike that broadened their lead to 42-0.


The Cardinals' only threat of the game came late in the fourth quarter, when they took 10 plays to drive the ball from their own seven-yard line to Middletown’s two-yard line.

Clear Lake’s Tyler Beets nearly scored on a 46-yard run, but with seconds to go, the Cardinals failed to convert on a first-and-goal opportunity from Middletown’s four-yard line and time ran out.


“The team didn’t quit,” Schweitzer said of his Cardinals, calling this game “something to build off of.”




Jamie Lopez (No. 3) was forced into quarterbacking duties for the Cardinals on Friday, October 8, 2010. Photo by Ed Oswalt.




Middletown quarterback Kyle Brown completed eight of 12 passes against Clear Lake for a total of 158 yards, and the Mustangs ran the ball 20 times for 264 yards rushing and 422 yards total offense against the Cardinals.


Looking ahead to Middletown’s Oct. 22 match against Ft. Bragg (5-0), Foltmer said, “We have a tough game coming up.”

He added, “the (North Central 1 – North) league is going to be a little bit tougher.”


The Clear Lake Cardinals host the Cloverdale Eagles (0-5) in Lakeport next Friday, Oct. 15, while the Mustangs travel to St. Helena (1-4) to take on the Saints.


In JV action, the Cardinals were more competitive, but still lost to Middletown 35-22.

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Middletown's Luke Parker and DJ Brookshire stop a run by Clear Lake's Tanner Mansell on Friday, October 8, 2010. Photo by Ed Oswalt.

A Cal Fire helicopter dropped water on a fire above Nice, Calif., on Friday, October 8, 2010. Photo by Deb Clarke.

NICE, Calif. – A four-wheel all-terrain vehicle is believed to be the cause of a Friday afternoon fire in Nice.

The fire, dispatched at around 4:30 p.m., was located on the hillside above Lakeview Drive and Dodge Road, according to Northshore Fire Battalion Chief Steve Hart.

Hart said the fire burned about three to five acres of vegetation, and did not threaten any structures.

Northshore Fire sent Hart, four engines and two medic units, with Cal Fire sending multiple engines, a dozer and aircraft, he said. The US Forest Service also sent resources to the fire.

Firefighters contained the fire after about an hour, he said.

Nice resident Deb Clarke lives near the scene of the fire and witnessed the suppression efforts.

“The good news is my neighbor on the hill caught the blaze and the Northshore firefighters showed up quick,” she said.

Clarke watched as firefighters dug a fire line, cleared downed trees and used a spotter plane and a helicopter with a bucket to drop water on the blaze.

Hart said the fire was attributed to a quad runner, which firefighters found at the scene.




Firefighters work on a hillside above Lakeview Drive and Dodge Road in Nice, Calif., where a small fire burned on Friday, October 8, 2010. Photo by Deb Clarke.



“We still have not been able to find the owner,” he said.

Firefighters were remaining on scene overnight to mop up, Hart said.

Clarke said she's been worried about what she called “the deadly combo of dry grass and motorcycles” for awhile.

“Every time I see them going up the private property trails, I cringe,” she said.

While her stepson is a semi-pro motorcycle racer, sparks that can come from the vehicles are particularly dangerous right now, she said.

Also on Friday evening, a fire was reported in Clearlake Park, although additional information wasn't immediately available.

A third fire, reported just after 7 p.m. in Clover Valley, burned a pump house, Hart said.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf .




Firefighters from Northshore Fire and Cal Fire responded to the small wildland fire in Nice, Calif., on Friday, October 8, 2010. Photo by Deb Clarke.

Northshore Fire personnel look at the scene of a fatal crash on Highway 20 between Lucerne and Clearake Oaks, Calif., on Wednesday, October 6, 2010. The crash claimed the life of the pickup's lone occupant. Photo by Gary McAuley.

LAKE COUNTY, Calif. – The California Highway Control confirmed Thursday that the man whose pickup went off Highway 20 and into Clear Lake on Wednesday night has died.

The name of the 40-year-old victim was not released by the CHP Thursday.

A CHP report said that the driver was headed eastbound in his 1991 Chevrolet S-10 pickup on Highway 20 east of Rosemont Drive between Lucerne and Clearlake at 6:20 p.m. Wednesday when the incident occurred.

The driver – for reasons the CHP is still investigating – allowed his truck to go off the south roadway edge where it overturned and came to rest upside down in the water, the report said.

Lake County News received information from a witness that the driver may have been pulling off the road to let other drivers pass him.

The man was reportedly trapped upside down underwater. Northshore Fire reported that he was extricated using the jaws of life.

A Northshore Fire ambulance transported the man to Sutter Lakeside Hospital, according to Battalion Chief Steve Hart.

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On Saturday, October 9, 2010, volunteer Dennis Locke captained the Clearlake Oaks Key's Property Owners Association weed-harvester cleaning the shoreline around Clarks Island. Photo by Miguel Lanigan.






CLEARLAKE OAKS, Calif. – It was a day of lots of hard work and activity at Clarks Island in Clearlake Oaks on Saturday.

The Clarks Island Sustainability Initiative sponsored and promoted a cleanup day at the island, which is located between Tower Mart and the Clearlake Oaks Boat Launch, near Island Drive on East Highway 20.

Following the county redevelopment agency's purchase in 2008 of the former trailer park, the redevelopment agency has relocated the dozen mobile home residents, removed debris and rezoned Clarks Island as open space, as Lake County News has reported.

The community-based Clarks Island Sustainability Initiative formed earlier this year under the direction of District 3 Supervisor Denise Rushing to begin the process of rehabilitating the island.




Volunteer Holly Harris pulled overgrowth by hand during the Clarks Island cleanup on Saturday, October 9, 2010, in Clearlake Oaks, Calif. Photo by Miguel Lanigan.



On Saturday the group of volunteers cleaned up debris and mowed, and hauled some invasive weeds out of the water.

When Clarks Island was a trailer park, locals planted many plants and trees which have been left in place for now, including apricots, black and green figs, persimmons, many verities of hollyhocks, choke cherries, crab apple and blackberries.

Still head, the county has hired a contractor to remove and replace a crumbling break wall on the island's Highway 20 side.

The group also is looking for a contractor who will donate time to pulling the many rotting piers left behind from the days when the island was a trailer park.

Plans for the island include creating floating islands to help control algae blooms in the area.




Volunteer Chuck Lamb stacked cuttings for later removal during the Clarks Island cleanup on Saturday, October 9, 2010. Lamb and his wife, Holly Harris, also are very active members of Konocti Trails, which has helped publicize the Clark's Island project. Photo by Miguel Lanigan.



A natural building project is set to start soon, with volunteers needed to help make adobe bricks, and build walls, roofing and other details.

Call 707-263-2580 for a schedule or more information.

Miguel Lanigan contributed to this report.

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Volunteer, local anthropologist Dr. John Parker, hauled away debris during the Clarks Island cleanup on Saturday, October 9, 2010, in Clearlake Oaks, Calif. Photo by Miguel Lanigan.




Lake County Parks director Kim Clymire dispatched two parks workers to help in the cleanup on Saturday, October 9, 2010, in Clearlake Oaks, Calif. Above is county park staffer Bill Chapin using a chainsaw to trim a broken fig tree branch. Photo by Miguel Lanigan.




Carol Ruttan, a biologist with Lake County Department of Water Resources, came as a volunteer for the Clarks Island cleanup on Saturday, October 9, 2010, in Clearlake Oaks, Calif. Photo by Miguel Lanigan.




The bridge leading over to Clarks Island from the E. Highway 20 in Clearlake Oaks, Calif. Photo by Miguel Lanigan.

LAKEPORT, Calif. – The Lake County Sheriff's Office has identified a man who died as the result of a Wednesday night crash.

Robert Peter Angle, 40, of Lakeport was the victim of the collision, according to Capt. James Bauman.

The CHP reported that the crash occurred at about 6:20 p.m. when Angle's Chevrolet S-10 pickup went off Highway 20 and into the lake in the area of Pepperwood Cove near Lucerne, as Lake County News has reported.

A Northshore Fire Protection District ambulance transported Angle at about 6:50 p.m. to Sutter Lakeside Hospital. Bauman said a physician at the hospital declared Angle deceased at 7:10 p.m.

Bauman said a deputy corner was dispatched at 7:20 p.m. Wednesday to Sutter Lakeside Hospital to investigate Angle's death.

Bauman said Angle's exact cause of death is pending the results of an autopsy, which is scheduled for

Tuesday, Oct. 12.

The cause of the crash is pending further investigation by the California Highway Patrol.

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CLEARLAKE, Calif. – A new, people-powered local group is planning a community celebration this Sunday, Oct. 10, in an effort to share its ideas for creating a healthier, happier Lake County.

Transition Lake County – or TLC – will host the event from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. in Clearlake's Redbud Park, 14655 Lakeshore Drive.

In case of rain, the event will move to the Clearlake Community United Methodist Church, 14541 Pearl Ave.

The celebration will include an afternoon of local music, a potluck barbecue and a chance to network with other active citizens and celebrate the great work being done all around the county to build a healthier, happier and more resilient community.

Oct. 10, 2010, is a worldwide day of action – part of www.350.org’s “Global Work Party” – intended to decrease the contribution to climate change.

TLC supports building local resilience, which has the effect of decreasing the use of fossil fuels. For example, by having a more localized economy, less gas is used and the products people want travel a shorter distance from the producer to the consumer; and supporting local organic farmers results in less pesticide and gas usage.


The key to developing that local resilience is building local networks – essentially, linking people who otherwise might not have connected even though they share similar interests.

There are amazing skills and resources here in Lake County, and also great need. If everyone works together to link up resources and needs, the county will be able to create greater health and happiness for everyone.

This 10-10-10 event is both a chance to celebrate the work done to improve the community and a chance to build a network and amovement toward true sustainability.


If you are part of a local community organization that is interested in building local resilience and have done some work to improve the world, come prepared to celebrate that contribution and to share and network with others.

Groups and individuals are welcome to bring a table or booth, information about their interests, and willingness to connect and co-create.

If you’d like to set up a table, please contact Karen or Nils at 707-928-0159.


To learn more about this event and all the great work-days actions leading up to Oct. 10, visit www.transitionlakecounty.org .

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Yearling goats at Yerba Santa Dairy in Lakeport, Calif. Photo by Esther Oertel.


Lake County’s only commercial dairy lies outside Lakeport on picturesque Scotts Valley Road. Named for the herb that grows wild in nearby hills, Yerba Santa Goat Dairy is run by cheese-making brothers Javier and Daniel Salmon.

The only access into the dairy is via a rustic bridge slung over a shallow gorge in which a swollen creek flows after the winter rains. Three low-lying meadows are home to 87 milk goats, and a couple dozen yearlings – milk goats in waiting, so to speak – make their home in a fenced area at the edge of the meadow.

It is here that the brothers from Lima, Peru create the cheeses that are sought after locally, as well as throughout much of the San Francisco Bay Area.

This is the time of year that cheese production slows, as the milk goats have been carrying young since mid-September. Two very busy bucks have impregnated the entire herd, and the twice-a-day milking cycle has dwindled to one.





Bags of cheese hang overnight at Yerba Santa Dairy in Lakeport, Calif. Photo by Esther Oertel.



Come November, the does will not be milked at all. Instead, they’ll spend the winter wandering the hills, eating brush and the coveted Yerba Santa herb. Their babies will arrive in late February and early March, and after they’ve had a month or so to nurse, milking and cheese production will once again begin.

The Salmons also produce cheeses under the Bodega label, carried over from the dairy’s former location in Sonoma County. Generally their cheeses are available from April through October, though some locations may have a supply they can sell beyond October.

Milking more than 80 goats is a three-hour process, which means that in the peak of season, a full six hours of each day is spent coaxing milk from the does. Milking begins on machines (they have four in their milking barn) and is finished by hand.

The milk is pumped directly to a bulk tank, where it’s stored for a day at 38 degrees. The tank can hold up to 250 gallons, but peak-of-season production is generally about 80 gallons a day.

After a brief storage in the bulk tank, the milk is pumped into a neighboring room where handcrafted French and Spanish style cheeses are created. Both raw and pasteurized cheeses are made at the dairy.




Tubs of fromage blanc at Yerba Santa Dairy in Lakeport, Calif. Photo by Esther Oertel.



Younger brother Daniel handles making the raw cheeses, which include a hard shepherd’s cheese, wonderful for grating; chevito, a semisoft cheese; and cabrello, which is similar to manchego, the historic sheep’s milk cheese made in Spain.

Raw cheeses are aged and allowed to mature for 60 days, while the pasteurized cheeses are sold fresh to stores, restaurants and the public.

Older brother Javier is in charge of pasteurized cheese production, which is generally a two-day process. After the milk is pasteurized, a culture is added. Once the cheese reaches the desired acidity, vegetarian rennet is thrown into the mix, causing the cheese to “clabber” or thicken.

The thickened product is put into cheesecloth bags and left to hang overnight, allowing the whey to drain from the cheese. The Salmons feed the resulting whey, a yellow liquid, to their goats. I was told by Javier that goat’s whey is traditionally drunk in Russia for longevity of life.

By morning, the content of the hanging bags is ready to process into fromage blanc, a creamy, spreadable cheese in tubs; chevre, fresh cheese shaped in soft balls; or fresco, a feta-like cheese with a short shelf life sold in tall wedges.





The Yerba Santa herd includes Alpine, Swiss Saneen and La Mancha goats. Photo by Esther Oertel.



While many of the cheeses are flavored only with natural sea salt, others have ranch-grown herbs or peppers added. While I was there, a bowl of roasted Serrano peppers, bright green with blackened skin, stood ready to be mixed in with a batch of fromage blanc.

Goat’s milk doesn’t have to be homogenized. Unlike cow’s milk, which separates with cream rising to the top, the fat molecules in goats’ milk remain suspended in the liquid.

Goat’s milk is lower in fat than cow’s milk, and because the fat molecules are much smaller, it’s easier to digest. Its molecular makeup is closer to that of human milk, in fact, which gives many unable to tolerate cow’s milk an alternative for dairy products.

Cheese has been made from goat’s milk for thousands of years, and is likely one of the earliest made dairy products. While cow’s milk cheese has dominated the scene in the U.S., most of the world eats more cheese made from goat’s milk than from cow’s.

Like cow’s milk, goat’s milk is a very good source of calcium and the amino acid tryptophan. It is also a good source of protein, phosphorus, riboflavin (vitamin B2) and potassium.




Yerba Santa

It’s unusual for Congress to pass a comprehensive bill to help thousands of veterans with a final legislative sprint that leaves veterans’ service organizations wondering what just happened.

But that’s what the Senate and House did last week. After a burst of closed-door compromises, they agreed to and separately passed the Veterans’ Benefits Act of 2010 (HR 3219), sent it on to the president.

The package has no clear blockbuster initiative. But it improves many veterans’ benefits including some allowances for disabled veterans and various veterans’ insurance options. Employment protections are toughened for those returning to civilian jobs.

Service members moving out of phone service areas will be able to sever cell phone contracts without penalty. And new federal grants will be authorized for job training and counseling, childcare services to homeless women veterans and homeless veterans with children.

“I think it’s fantastic and I’m truly incredulous that it went through as fast at it did,” said Tim Tetz, the American Legion’s legislative director.

A week before passage Tetz said he and the Legion’s national commander had visited with Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii), chairman of the veterans’ affairs committee. Knowing Congress would adjourn soon and not return until after the November election, the Legion had urged Akaka to clear an omnibus benefits bill at least during the post-election lame duck session.

Akaka said a bill was being worked. A week later, to Tetz’s surprise, a bill chock full of initiatives had passed both the House and Senate.

“It’s quite expansive,” said Tetz. “It will be hard to find a veteran that in some way won’t be touched by it.”

“The package is excellent,” said Joe Violante, legislative director for Disabled American Veterans. “There are new and expanded provisions for disabled veterans that should help them in a lot of different areas.”

“We have about 20 to 25 separate bills in there,” said Rep. Bob Filner (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, in a phone interview. “It’s an incredible move forward for all our veterans, whether talking about those on the street or those suffering from mental illness or women veterans facing sexual trauma. I mean it touches virtually every issue that we’ve been working on for several years.”

The House passed an original HR 3219 in July last year with a contentious provision to establish a $1,000-a-month payment to former World War II merchant marines regardless of need or disability.

Senators and even many vet groups refused to support it, arguing it created a benefit not available to other vets.

WWII-era merchant marines, they argued, already have full veteran status and can apply for VA benefits including a needs-based pension for the elderly.

When House negotiators agreed to remove the merchant marine language, the benefit package came together, expanded by a final packet of Senate amendments, many of them bills already passed by the House.

Here are highlights to take effect when the bill is signed:

– An automobile assistance allowance for veterans who have lost limbs or have other qualifying disabilities will increase from $11,000 to $18,900. It also will be adjusted for inflation on Oct. 1 each year.

– The funeral or burial payment for veterans who die in a VA facility or who are eligible to be buried in a VA cemetery will increase from $300 to $700. This payment too will increase annually for inflation but after 2011.

– Supplemental insurance for totally disabled veterans will increase from $20,000 up to $30,000.

– Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (SGLI) coverage for totally disabled veterans will be permanently extended to two years, from 18 months, after they leave service. This change will be applied retroactively to persons separated from service on or after June 15, 2005.

– The maximum loan guarantee amount under the Veterans’ Mortgage Life Insurance program will increase from $90,000 to $150,000. It will increase again, to $200,000, on Jan. 1, 2012.

– Individuals who qualify for retroactive traumatic injury protection coverage under SGLI (called TSGLI) will be expanded to include veterans who incurred qualifying traumatic injuries on or after Oct. 7, 2001, but before Dec. 1, 2005, regardless of where the injuries occurred.

– Veterans will be able to increase Veterans’ Group Life Insurance (VGLI) coverage by $25,000 every five years until reaching age 60.

– The Servicemembers’ Civil Relief Act (SCRA) will be modified to allow service members to terminate cellular telephone contracts when ordered to relocate for a period of 90 days or more to an area not supported by the contract.

– The SCRA also will give service members a “private right of action” to file their own lawsuits against those who violate their legal rights. They no longer will have to wait for enforcement action by a federal agency.

The SCRA is strengthened in two other ways, said retired Navy Capt. Samuel F. Wright, a legal expert with the Reserve Officers Association. It now will allow for the Department of Justice to bring a civil action against SCRA violators and those found guilty will have to pay court costs and service members’ attorney fees.

“That’s very valuable,” Wright explained, because SCRA claimants will find it so much easier to find a lawyer.

Architects of the bill found a way to pay for these improvements and many more by extending a reduction in VA pensions for veterans who have no spouse or children and who are covered by a Medicaid plan while residing in a nursing home. This allows the bill actually to save the VA $394 million over five years and a total of $8 million over the next decade.

To comment, send e-mail to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or write to Military Update, P. O. Box 231111, Centreville, VA, 20120-1111.

Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf .

CLEARLAKE, Calif. – An official dedication ceremony for the new Clearlake Veterans Affairs Clinic will be held on Wednesday, Oct. 13.

The event, will which begin at 1 p.m., will feature Congressman Mike Thompson and other local dignitaries.

The new clinic is located at 15145 Lakeshore Drive, Clearlake.

Beginning earlier this year, the building underwent a complete remodel to prepare it for its new use as a clinic. Previously, it had housed county mental health services, as Lake County News has reported.

The VA reported that the new clinic will have approximately 8,600 square feet of clinic space and will offer primary care, mental health services and limited specialty care through tele-health technology, linking the clinic with specialists at the San Francisco VA Medical Center and Santa Rosa VA Outpatient Clinic.

The Clearlake VA Clinic will officially open for patient care on Nov. 1.

Veterans who are interested in receiving care at the Clearlake Clinic may register at the San Francisco VAMC or any of its outpatient clinics.

In addition, veterans can register at www.va.gov or www.sanfrancisco.va.gov or contact the VAMC Eligibility Office at 415-750-2015.

For more information about the Clearlake VA Clinic call Ken Browne at 707-468-7704.

Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf .

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