Saturday, 13 July 2024



CLEARLAKE OAKS – Officials are estimating that Highway 20 will be closed until early Wednesday morning because of a crash that injured several people and left a big rig in a creek.

Several California Highway Patrol units were reported to be at the scene, where the crash occurred shortly before 3:30 p.m.

The crash occurred on Highway 20 at mile post marker 35, east of Clearlake Oaks, leaving the roadway closed down not long afterward, according to the CHP.

At 5:30 p.m., officials estimated that the highway will be closed for approximately eight hours.

Caltrans was closing Highway 20 at Highway 16 near Brooks in Colusa County and also was shutting down eastbound Highway 53. CHP units were being called to respond to turn traffic around at Highway 16.

The big rig, carrying pears, was said to be in Cache Creek, with Fish and Game and hazmat units called to the scene. Officials were discussing damming the creek to try to contain the spill.

County Environmental Health officers were on their way to the scene shortly before 6 p.m.

Two REACH air ambulances landed at the scene to transport several people injured in the head-on crash. Specifics about the number of injured were unavailable Tuesday afternoon.

More updates will be provided as information becomes available.

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 .

NICE – A small fire that broke out at Robinson Rancheria Monday night was quickly contained.

The fire, which officials reported broke out near the rancheria's water tank, was dispatched shortly before 5 p.m. Northshore Fire officials turned the fire over to Cal fire about an hour later.

Fire Capt. Jeff Gahagan of Cal Fire said the fire was only a quarter-acre in size.

He said Cal Fire sent a five-engine wildfire response to the blaze.

By 7 p.m. mop up was completed and everyone was back in quarters, Gahagan said.

Gahagen said the cause of the fire is under investigation.

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LAKE MENDOCINO – The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) and the US Army Corps of Engineers will host a joint training exercise – including live fire training – this coming week at the Lake Mendocino Dam.

The exercise will take place from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 27. Smoke will be visible throughout the entire Ukiah and Redwood Valley areas.

The training burn's purpose is to assist the US Army Corps of Engineers in removing the vegetation from the face of the Lake Mendocino Dam, allowing access and visibility for the required earthquake inspection.

In addition, the exercise will be used to train and enhance the skills of local firefighters during live fire exercises.

Personnel from the Ukiah Valley Fire District, Ukiah City Fire Department, Hopland Fire Department, Redwood Valley/Calpella Fire Department and the Potter Valley Fire Department will take part.

Spectators are welcome to come and watch the fire agencies at work but are requested to park in the fish hatchery parking lot near the base of the dam. Spectators also are reminded to drive very carefully while in the area as there may be many other cars and pedestrians.

The training burn will be conducted under very tight restrictions for the personal safety of firefighters and area residents.

If there are any indications that the training burn cannot be conducted in a safe manner, such as if there are high winds or local fire activity, the training exercise will be canceled. Cal Fire said the safety of all residents is the agency's utmost concern.

LAKEPORT – After 30 years on the bench, Judge Arthur H. Mann announced Monday that he is retiring.

Mann, 62, said his retirement as judge of Lake County Superior Court's Department 3 will become effective Nov. 1.

“Although I am retiring, I am not quitting,” Mann said in a statement released from his office Monday afternoon. “I anticipate that I will remain working as a retired judge until my successor is selected.

“I wish to thank all the other judges that I have had the pleasure of working with as well as all the Court employees,” Mann continued. “I will miss working with my fellow judges and court staff as much as I will miss being a judge.”

Mann began his judicial career on July 10, 1979, when he was appointed judge of the Kelseyville Justice Court.

Since then, he's been a justice court judge, a municipal court judge and a superior court judge. In that capacity, he's heard everything from minor cases to cases involving murder.

“Being a judge is the best possible profession that I can imagine, and I always looked forward to going to work each day,” he said.

Mann and the rest of Lake County's Superior Court judges have six-year terms, which aren't up for reelection until 2012, according to the Lake County Registrar of Voters Office.

That means Mann's retirement will create a vacancy that is up to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to fill, said Philip Carrizosa, spokesman for the state's Administrative Office of the Courts in San Francisco.

“Generally, the governor's office has a list of people who have filed applications for a judgeship,” Carrizosa explained.

The Governor's Office sends those names over to the California State Bar's Commission for Judicial Nominees Evaluation, said Carrizosa. The commission sends out questionnaires to people who may know that candidates, and conducts candidate interviews.

The application process is the governor is very detailed, and Carrizosa said the Commission for Judicial Nominees Evaluation's work in identifying a suitable candidate is confidential.

The commission assigns ratings to candidates on a scale including extremely well qualified, well qualified, qualified and not qualified, Carrizosa said.

The commission's evaluation of the candidates then go to the governor's judicial appointment secretary, which assists in deciding the best candidate for the position, he said.

Generally, the governor will wait until a position is officially vacant – in this case, November – before beginning the selection process, said Carrizosa. He said he would expect the governor to appoint a new judge sometime in early 2010.

It can take some time to fill a judgeship. The last judicial vacancy in Lake County occurred in July 2004, when Judge Robert Crone decided to retire. It was the following July before Richard Martin was sworn in as his successor.

An official with the Governor's Office wasn't available late Monday to confirm if they've started to receive applications from candidates.

Superior Court judges currently make $178,789 annually. However, local judges have agreed to take a nearly 5-percent pay cut in response to the state's decision to close all courts on the third Wednesday of the month as a cost-saving measure, as Lake County News has reported.

There so far have been no local members of the justice system who have stated they'll seek Mann's post.

However, one who said he won't apply is District Attorney Jon Hopkins.

“I don't think I would be as happy doing that as I am being a prosecutor,” said Hopkins, 63, noting he wouldn't want to be tied to a courtroom.

Hopkins added that being a judge is “a tough job. There's a lot of work involved with it.”

Mann ended his statement by thanking the community “for giving me the opportunity to serve them and I thank them for their support of the judicial system. As a retired judge I hope to continue serving the public.”

He also wished his successor good luck, “and I know that whoever succeeds me will have a rewarding career.”

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 .

Tommy Castro performing at the Reno Tahoe Blues Festival in August 2009. Photo by T. Watts.

The CyberSoulMan was in the house at the fifth annual Reno Tahoe Blues Festival, held in Rancho San Rafael Park in Reno, Nev., on the weekend starting Aug. 14.

This year, the festival’s featured performers were Lil Dave Thompson, Ronnie Baker Brooks, Magic Slim & The Teardrops, Lady Bianca, Mel Waiters, The Emotions, Mem Shannon, Larry McCray, Tommy Castro, Shirley Brown and James Ingram.

When we arrived on Saturday the Mississippi-born Magic Slim was onstage. Slim cut his teeth on the Chicago Blues scene as a teenager with the legendary Magic Sam, who was his friend and mentor.

Magic Slim has cut more than 20 albums of his own and at 72 years of age is one of a dwindling number of elder statesmen of the blues. During Slim’s set, Saturday opening act, Ronnie Baker Brooks, sat attentively in the wings sopping up the blues vibrations emanating from Slim.

Up next was the Bay Area’s Lady Bianca. Bianca studied at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music after cutting her musical teeth in her dad’s church. The stylish Lady B crafted a creative set of rhythm & blues that included selections from her latest album, “A Woman Never Forgets.”

The uproarious “Ugly Man Song” – with its accompanying monologue – left the audience in stitches. Lady B informed me after the festival that they want her back next year, if possible, and intimated that the festival producers treated her like royalty.

The Gentleman of Southern Soul Mel Waiters and his revue had to bump it up a notch after Bianca’s riveting performance. Waiters, the consummate showman, came down into the audience and worked the crowd into a dancing frenzy through such numbers as “Hole In The Wall” and “Got My Whiskey.

The closing act for Saturday were the Emotions, the trio of female vocalists who had hits with “The Best Of My Love,” “Don’t Ask My Neighbor,” “So I Can Love You” and “Boogie Wonderland,” produced by Maurice White of Earth, Wind and Fire.

The Emotions are still a very talented group but their act was ill-suited to close for the blues festival crowd. Their style was more cabaret than blues festival. Perhaps they should’ve opened.

Sunday’s show was more balanced. Though I missed the opening act Mem Shannon, I did catch Larry McCray, Tommy Castro, Shirley Brown and James Ingram.

McCray offered a fine set of guitar blues and vocals. California favorite Tommy Castro’s high energy set of blues rock had the folks dancing. He strolled through the crowd playing cordlessly at the beginning and end of his set.

Southern Soul Belle Shirley Brown thoroughly entertained with her Aretha-esqe vocals and her bawdy brand of storytelling. You had to see it and hear it to believe it.

The great James Ingram closed the festival festivities Sunday night. His set was geared toward the ladies in the house, heavy on the love ballads. He also sang hits from his recorded repertoire that included his collaborations with Michael McDonald and Michael Jackson. His latest CD is his first inspirational effort and he also sang tracks from it. Unlike the prior nights closer, he held the crowd to the very end.

The food sold at the festival was varied and delicious. I tried a catfish platter that was fresh and tasty. The barbecued ribs were outstanding. I even tried the gator. It was great and didn’t taste like chicken!

And on the Lake County front … blues diva Bettie Mae Fikes, fresh from her endearing performance at the Blue Wing Blues Festival, is recording a live album in Lake County on Wednesday, Aug. 26. The album is set to be recorded on location at a “rightly energized space” that I will report on next week.

Keep prayin’, keep thinkin’ those kind thoughts.


Upcoming cool events:

Frankie J. and Real Deal will be performing at Acoustic Café, 745 State St., Ukiah, outside under the parachutes. Wine, dine and enjoy! Saturday, Aug. 29, at 7 p.m. Cost: $10. Advanced tickets available online at and at the Ukiah Music Center.

Tyrone Rivera and Tim Culp, Blue Wing Saloon & Cafe Sunday Brunch, Aug. 30. Brunch from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.; music from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Blue Wing Saloon & Café, 9520 Main St., Upper Lake. Telephone 707-275-2233, .

Memphis Exchange with Randy McGowen, Blues Monday, Aug. 24, 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Blue Wing Saloon & Café, 9520 Main St., Upper Lake. Telephone 707-275-2233, .

Open mike night, Thursday, Aug. 27, 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Blue Wing Saloon & Café, 9520 Main St., Upper Lake. Telephone 707-275-2233, .

Lake Blues All-Stars with Neon, Blues Monday, Aug. 31, 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Blue Wing Saloon & Café, 9520 Main St., Upper Lake. Telephone 707-275-2233, .

Con Funk Shun, Saturday, Sept. 5, 8 p.m. Cache Creek Casino Resort, 14455 Highway 16, Brooks. Telephone 888-77-CACHE, .

Roy Rogers & The Delta Rhythm Kings plus Gerald Mathis & Starlight at 5:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 7. Blue Wing Saloon & Café, 9520 Main St., Upper Lake. Telephone 707-275-2233, .

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

UPPER LAKE – Federal authorities arrested a well-known Upper Lake contractor Tuesday as part of an extensive enforcement operation, with at least two others also taken into custody.

But the federal defenders assigned to Upper Lake resident Tom Carter's case said in court documents filed this week that the complaint against him is “sadly deficient” and offers little in the way of information about his alleged involvement in a May marijuana deal arranged by an informant.

Dozens of Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents armed with assault rifles and driving more than two dozen black Cadillac Escalades descended on the Hunter Point Road home Carter shares with wife, Jamie Ceridono, on Tuesday just before 7:30 a.m., Ceridono said Friday.

Ceridono said she counted four helicopters flying overhead at one point during the operation.

Later that day, Brett Bassignani, Carter's co-defendant in the case, was arrested at his Clover Valley Road home, Ceridono said. Also arrested was a neighbor, Scott Feil.

“I don't know the charges,” said Ceridono. “I don't know what's going on. No one has told me.”

Ceridono said her husband is being held at a jail facility in the Oakland area. Initially, after the arrest, she said he was taken to Sonoma County and was checked by medical personnel after his blood pressure shot up, causing her to believe he was having a heart attack.

“I don't know what he could have done to cause this,” she said, noting that her husband has worked hard all of his life, donated time to community causes and done fundraisers, as well as introducing the recent Rainbow Bridge Festival.

She said she saw a sheriff's official and another man who she believed was a local policeman on scene. Capt. James Bauman of the Lake County Sheriff's Office said the agency wasn't involved in the DEA operation earlier this week.


DEA spokesperson Casey McEnry would offer little information about the raid.

“I can confirm the enforcement operation; however, the search warrants remain under court seal and I am prohibited from providing further details relating to the operation. I don't anticipate the warrants being unsealed anytime soon,” McEnry said in an e-mail response to Lake County News' inquiry about Carter's arrest.

When pressed on the circumstances of Carter's arrest, McEnry referred Lake County News to the US Attorney's Office in San Francisco. Repeated attempts to contact a spokesperson at that agency Friday afternoon were unsuccessful.

Carter, who was arraigned Wednesday, is facing two felony counts of conspiracy and possession with the intent to distribute under the federal Controlled Substance Act.

At his hearing, the US Attorney's Office requested that he be detained “on the basis of flight risk and danger to the community,” according to federal court documents obtained by Lake County News.

A detention hearing is set for Wednesday, Aug. 26, in San Francisco before US Magistrate Judge Bernard Zimmerman.

Ceridono said she was held in a chair in her front yard from about 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Tuesday. Also held were members of her husband's construction crew. Her teenage daughter was allowed to leave with her older daughter during the operation.

Officials took 154 marijuana plants that Ceridono said were covered by medical marijuana prescriptions held by her husband and several others. Also taken was her computer.

Agents went through Carter's and Ceridono's home, but she said they didn't trash it. She said a head agent seemed surprised not to find more plants or evidence.

Ceridono said at one point agents “didn't have anything to do.”

“They were playing with my dogs, they were so bored,” she said.

She said her husband, whose hard physical labor has resulted in a lot of aches and pains, also suffered a fracture in his back in May when he rolled his truck, and uses medical marijuana to deal with pain. Ceridono said she doesn't use the drug.

Federal court documents show that the US Attorney's Office requested on Aug. 14 – four days before Carter's arrest – that documents filed against him in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California be sealed, which US Magistrate Judge Maria-Elena James agreed to do the same day.

On Wednesday, US Magistrate Judge Bernard Zimmerman signed an order to unseal the documents at the request of Assistant US Attorney Tarek Helou.

On Thursday, federal defenders Barry J. Portman and Geoffrey A. Hansen filed a 26-page pre-trial memorandum regarding Carter's detention to dismiss the case, citing “sadly deficient” evidence.

The document explains that a confidential informant claimed to have arranged to purchase marijuana from Carter, leaving a message on an unspecified number alleged to be Carter's voice mail to set up the deal. That same informant allegedly made a purchase deal with Bassignani.

Carter's federal defenders said the case against Carter contains no claim that he got the phone message the number that the informant allegedly called and its relationship to Carter also isn't set out in the complaint against him, they noted. Feil''s arrest wasn't listed in the documents.

“All the complaint says is that another individual, Mr. Bassignani, called the informant, claimed he worked for 'Carter Construction,' and arranged a marijuana deal,” Carter's defense attorneys state.

The document continues, “The deal later took place, and the only other reference to Mr. Carter is the conclusory claim that the informant 'had agreed on the price with Carter.' No context, no specifics, and no other information is provided in the complaint which indicates that Mr. Carter in fact talked to the informant, arranged a marijuana deal, and indicated that he (Carter) was knowingly involved in a marijuana transaction.”

The attorneys added, “This complaint is sadly deficient with regard to whether Mr. Carter has done anything to indicate that he conspired to break the law. It should be dismissed accordingly.”

Carter's counsel also is seeking to receive copies of any evidence that may have been collected by wiretap.

Ceridono said she and a group of friends and supporters are planning to travel to San Francisco next Wednesday for her husband's hearing in federal court.

In the wake of the raid, Ceridono said she feels like she's living in another country. “I don't feel like I'm in California at all.”

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 .

SANTA ROSA – Amidst growing questions about her health, state Sen. Patricia Wiggins (D-Santa Rosa) announced Monday that she will re-enter private life when her current term ends in November 2010.

Wiggins, who served as a Santa Rosa City Council member and then in the Assembly for six years before being elected to the Senate in 2006, said that rather than seeking re-election next year, she will look for other avenues for assisting people living on the North Coast.

Wiggins has had to overcome a variety of health-related issues during her years in office, including a hearing impairment that forced her to wear a headset during committee and floor debates.

“My commitment to fight for the people of the North Coast has not diminished a bit,” Wiggins said. “But, the physical demands of representing a district that stretches from San Francisco Bay to Humboldt Bay, have become progressively more challenging for me.

“I am proud of my legislative accomplishments. I know I have made a difference with my votes and the measures I have carried for my district,” she said. “I am equally proud of the message I have been able to send to everyone who is physically-challenged.

“When I first considered running ran for the Assembly, some people discouraged me because of my hearing problem. But I was determined to set an example, both as a representative and as a person who refuses to let disabilities get in the way. A dozen years later I am pleased to say I believe I have succeeded on both fronts.

“However, it is also true that my years in office have taken their toll. I think it is now time to move on rather than going through one more campaign,” she said.

Wiggins said she has a lot of people to thank for their support and assistance during her time in the legislature. “This is not a one-person job. Our effectiveness can be traced to outstanding staff assistance and to the many people throughout the North Coast who have shared their time, talent and ideas.

“I look forward to working with all of them in other capacities after my term in office ends,” she said.

Among Wiggins' legislative accomplishments over the years, she founded the Smart Growth Caucus in the Legislature; prevented the coastline of the Hearst Ranch from being subdivided; enacted AB 857, said to be the most comprehensive state land use and infrastructure law in 30 years; provided $1 million dollars for Russian River restoration projects; worked to expand affordable housing opportunities; established the California School-to-Career Grant Program to help those students who don’t go directly to college; provided an assortment of laws to protect people from identity theft.

While in the Senate, she worked with the California Rural Caucus to acquire $22 million from the Federal Communications Commission for the California Telehealth Network to improve rural health care through the expansion of telemedicine technology; worked to protect open space; authored SB 562, which provided $5.3 million for coastal salmon and fishery restoration projects to preserve and improve their habitat; through SB 1690, protected the crab fishery by creating an industry task force to make recommendations to the Legislature on how to best regulate the crab industry to prevent fishery depletion like that of the salmon industry; and chaired the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Fisheries and Aquaculture.

Other legislative efforts made significant progress in cleaning up the more than eighty rusting WWII ships sitting in Suisun Bay and raised food standards – specifically, creating the first in the nation olive oil standards based on existing international standards.

Wiggins also urged Congress to pass the salmon relief bill to provide $60 million in relief for commercial salmon fishermen and the related industries due to the failure of the 2006 salmon fishing season, and succeeded in having the Joint Legislative Audit Committee direct the California State Auditor to inspect the Yountville Veterans Home, which led to findings that the home needed to make major improvements to its health care services as well as major improvements to its compliance with the American Disability Act requirements.

Visit Wiggins' Web site at .

LAKE COUNTY – Lake County's unemployment edged downward slightly in July as did federal unemployment, while the state continued to lose jobs, according to a new report.

The state Employment Development Department (EDD) released its July unemployment report on Friday.

The report shows that Lake County's unemployment was 15.4 percent for July, down from 15.7 percent in June, but up from 10.4 percent in July of 2008, according to EDD statistics. In all, there were 3,950 people not employed in the county in July.

The EDD listed unemployment rates for communities around Lake County. By percentage, Clearlake Oaks has the most unemployed, with 22.7 percent, followed by Nice, with 21.6 percent.

The area with the largest number of unemployed – 970 – is the city of Clearlake, with 21.3 percent unemployment.

The lowest unemployment was in Upper Lake, at 6.2 percent.

Other areas ranked included Middletown, 18.8 percent; Lucerne, 16.1 percent; Kelseyville, 15.1 percent; Lakeport, 13.9 percent; North Lakeport, 13.5 percent; Cobb, 12.7 percent; Hidden Valley Lake, 12.4 percent; and Lower Lake, 12.2. percent.

California’s unemployment rate was 11.9 percent in July, up from 11.6 percent in June and over the July 2008 unemployment rate of 7.3 percent. Those numbers are derived from a federal survey of 5,500 California households.

Nationwide, unemployment decreased in July to 9.4 percent, down slightly from 9.5 percent in June, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Lake's unemployment rate ranked it No. 47 in the state. Marin had the lowest rate at 8.2 percent.

Neighboring counties ranked as follows: Colusa, 16.4 percent, No. 52; Glenn, 15.9 percent, No. 49; Mendocino, 10.6 percent, No. 13; Napa, 8.8 percent, No. 3; Sonoma, 10.3 percent, No. 11; Yolo, 11.2 percent, No. 19.

The EDD reported that in July in California nonfarm payroll jobs declined by 35,800. Nonfarm jobs in California totaled 14,249,600 in July, a decrease of 35,800 over the month, according to a survey of businesses that is larger and less variable statistically.

The survey of 42,000 California businesses measures jobs in the economy, the EDD reported. The year-over-year change (July 2008 to July 2009) shows a decrease of 760,200 jobs (down 5.1 percent).

The federal survey of households, done with a smaller sample than the survey of employers, shows a decrease in the number of employed people. It estimates the number of Californians holding jobs in July was 16,260,000, a decrease of 87,000 from June, and down 798,000 from the employment total in July of last year, the agency reported.

The number of people unemployed in California was 2,187,000 – up by 33,000 over the month, and up by 840,000 compared with July of last year.

EDD’s report on payroll employment – wage and salary jobs – in the nonfarm industries of California totaled 14,249,600 in July, a net loss of 35,800 jobs since the June survey. EDD officials reported that this followed a loss of 66,100 jobs (as revised) in June.

Categories adding jobs over the month were professional and business services and leisure and hospitality, with 2,900 jobs added.

Eight categories – construction; manufacturing; trade, transportation and utilities; information; financial activities; educational and health services; other services; and government – reported job declines in July month, down 38,700 jobs.

Trade, transportation and utilities posted the largest decline over the month, down by 15,900 jobs, while one category, natural resources and mining, reported no change.

In a year-over-year comparison (July 2008 to July 2009), nonfarm payroll employment in California decreased by 760,200 jobs (down 5.1 percent). One industry division, educational and health services, posted job gains over the year, adding 17,900 jobs (a 1.0 percent increase).

The EDD reported that 10 categories – natural resources and mining; construction; manufacturing; trade, transportation and utilities; information; financial activities; professional and business services; leisure and hospitality; other services; and government – posted job declines over the year, down 778,100 jobs.

The largest decline on a numerical basis was in trade, transportation and utilities, which was down by 196,600 jobs, a decline of 6.9 percent. On a percentage basis, construction posted the largest decline, down by 18.6 percent – a decrease of 144,500 jobs.

During the EDD's July survey week, 812,165 people received regular unemployment insurance benefits, down from 820,387 in June and up from 480,226 in July of last year.

In July new claims for unemployment insurance were 80,048, compared with 86,016 in June

and 58,131 in July of 2008.

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 .

UPPER LAKE – An advocacy group said Monday that several arrests by the Drug Enforcement Administration that followed a federal raid in Upper Lake last week are believed to be the first involving medical marijuana since President Barack Obama took office.

Tom Carter and Brett Bassignani were arrested Aug. 18 on charges of conspiracy and possession with the intent to distribute marijuana, as Lake County News has reported.

An informant had allegedly made a purchase deal with Bassignani and referenced Carter in the transaction, but last week Carter's federal defense attorneys filed a document in which they challenged the charge, saying they were weak and should be dismissed.

Court document reveal there were additional arrests as well – those of Carter's neighbors, Scott Feil and Diana Feil, and Diana Feil's stepfather, Steven Swanson. The charges against the Feils and Swanson, however, are not elaborated in the documents that Lake County News was able to obtain Monday.

A US Attorney's Office spokesman could not be reached for comment on the case Monday.

Scott Feil was the former manager of the United Medical Caregivers Clinic medical cannabis dispensary in Los Angeles, and has been fighting a federal forfeiture case for several years, according to Dale Gieringer, PhD, coordinator for California NORML, a group dedicated to reforming marijuana laws.

Gieringer said the Upper Lake situation is significant because, although there have been about three or four other DEA raids involving that are alleged to be medical marijuana collectives, this is the first time arrests were made and federal charges filed since President Obama came into office in January.

Earlier this year, US Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the federal government would no longer prosecute marijuana offenses that are legal under state medical marijuana laws. Since then, the DEA has raided two or three dispensaries in San Francisco and Los Angeles, but without making any arrests, according to California NORML.

Gieringer said the 154 plants seized from Carter's property – which Carter's wife, Jamie Ceridono, said were covered by medical recommendations – is a small number and is in keeping with what would be found at a medical marijuana collective.

“It sounds like the key to this whole case is this informant who was setting something up,” said Gieringer.

California NORML, which has kept track of all federal marijuana arrests since they started, denounced the federal government for continuing to interfere in California's medical marijuana laws in the wake of the Upper Lake arrests.

The group reported that more than 100 medical marijuana defendants have been charged under federal law.

Gieringer called for concrete changes in federal law, and said the Obama administration so far hasn't announced any changes in federal laws or regulations.

Obama appointees haven't yet replaced Bush appointees – who Gieringer called “marijuana-hostile” – in the DEA and the U.S. Attorney's Office in Northern California.

The locals arrested last week were transported to the Bay Area. Feil is due for a detention hearing at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday in San Francisco. Carter's detention hearing is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, and Ceridono said she and supporters plan to attend.

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 .




My mother-in-law Jane recently died. Last week we attended the funeral; it was a nice service, and afterwards the family got on a boat and we dropped her ashes at sea.

It’s been a difficult time for my wife, her brothers and sisters, but the process of sorting through their mother’s belongings has begun. She was quite a reader and the number of books she owned is daunting.

Her children started picking through the books, taking those that interested them, yet there are still boxes and boxes of books left over for an estate sale.

Going through her books turned out to be a very amusing task since not only did she read these books but she made corrections in them and notes about their content. There are pages and pages of these corrections and editorial comments. It made for several bursts of laughter in an otherwise somber weekend.

As an author I dreaded looking at her copy of my book; thankfully she didn’t have any notes in it. Probably out of pity, I can only guess.

My mother-in-law wasn’t a fancy cook. I wouldn’t even call her a foodie of any sort. Her cupboards were filled with good, but not great, ingredients and very simple cookbooks. Why does anyone need three copies of The Joy of Cooking?

She was a Minnesota native like myself and never tried to develop her palate beyond that simple Midwestern fare. She would boast about the local restaurants in her (tourist trap) town when in reality they were, well come on, anywhere you can eat lunch while someone else a couple of seats over is throwing squid to the sea lions … enough said.

Throughout her married life, she did the meat and potatoes style of cooking for the weekday family meals while my father-in-law Charlie was the gourmand who would whip up “something special” on the weekends.

I remember at one of the first meals I ever had with them, the first plate was set in front of me and all my eyes saw was a gray slice of bread and a bright red tongue. I’m sure my father-in-law was setting me up to exclaim “WHAT THE HECK IS THIS!”

Actually it was a slice of pate de foie gras and a pimento marinated in extra virgin olive oil. But that really set the stage for my future encounters with his food.

Sunday dinners with them educated me on many levels and contributed much to the cook and person I am today. A week doesn’t go by when I find myself cooking and thinking “What would Charlie do?”

Now I find myself not only loving the refined haute cuisine that he used to serve but wanting to learn more about all food, whether it be tripe or simmered chicken gizzards (now a favorite of mine). Point of interest: my father-in-law died back in 1991.

Although most of my mother-in-law’s cookbooks didn’t interest me I did find one book in her library that caught my attention and it’s called “Grandmother’s Wartime Kitchen” by Joanne Lamb Hayes.

Being not only a cooking anorak but a really big history buff as well, I have been reading it with enthusiasm and have become quite fascinated by how the World War II American wartime kitchen worked. The book is filled with recipes, anecdotes, and quotes about food and shopping during the big war.

I was surprised when I read the part about how when Pearl Harbor was bombed every housewife went out and emptied the store shelves of sugar. That surprised me since I would have thought that the meat section would have been cleared out.

Then I remembered that this was in the period of infancy of the home refrigerator/freezer, and not every home was equipped with a large amount of cold storage, and so buying large amounts of meat would have been wasted.

Also, homemakers who remembered the problems from the not-so-distant past of World War I knew that if you wanted sugar you better get it now. This mentality of buying it now and in huge amounts was one of the reasons why the U.S. started food rationing for the rest of the war.

This rationing caused the American homemaker to become incredibly creative in their shopping and cooking to keep a family fed on very little food. Meat had to be stretched further so fillers became popular. Food from the garden had to be preserved so home canning became commonplace. Meatloaf, Swedish meatballs and Salisbury steak are all recipes where bread is added to ground beef in a way to stretch your meat supply all became popular during this time.

During World War II America took it upon itself to be the Allies’ bread basket. Essentially, America was feeding the world while the American people were getting the leftovers. The “yard bird” was born from this, raising your own chickens in your backyard, even if you lived in town. Chicken and eggs were hard to come by so raising your own just made sense. The American Victory Garden became a vital part of the war effort and still holds a part in American culture.

Saving bacon grease was something that every household did. Not only was the grease popular to cook with but when it had served its purpose as far as it could in the kitchen the now useless leftovers were still saved and taken to collection centers at the local butcher’s, where he would strain it and give you some money for it. It was then sent out and turned into glycerin, and that glycerin was turned into gunpowder. Ah, bacon! Killing people on so many levels.

I grew up with a can of bacon grease under the kitchen sink and never thought about it twice. Up until about a decade ago even I had a can of bacon fat under my sink, just because that’s what people do. I’ve since lowered the use of bacon in my diet and then filter and refrigerate any bacon fat that I do rend for a final use before I throw it out.

As I read through this book I kept thinking how these recipes could do so much to help people now-a-days to stretch their budget. These principles are handy and still applicable. I’m picking out recipes now to try out and serve to my family, and putting together a grocery list.

How can you not be intrigued by recipes like “California Chicken” that has no chicken in it (the protein is tuna), or “Emergency Steak” made from wheat cereal and ground beef?

Many of the recipes remind me of my childhood when my mother and grandmother used to make Pork-U-Pines and Apple Brown Betty. In the Midwest many of these culinary traditions are still served to this day and seem rather odd when I go back for a visit, almost like I’ve traveled back in time. It also makes me realize how spoiled Californians are when it comes to food. I remember as a child thinking having an artichoke was like touching a diamond.

Reading this book has also caused me to wonder what would happen if this generation was required to make the sacrifices that were made in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s. People may complain about and protest the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, yet (not including the families of fallen soldiers) they have had to make no personal, home-altering sacrifice to support them in any way, not when compared to the past.

To finish this column, I thought that I should tell you one last thing. My maternal grandfather died of throat cancer after a lifetime of smoking, my maternal grandmother was burned to death after she fell asleep while smoking and now my mother-in-law has died, unable to breathe after a lifetime of smoking. So don’t smoke, and if you do, quit. It’s far easier for you to quit smoking than for your family to deal with you being gone.

Goodbye, Jane.

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. Follow him on Twitter, .

LAKEPORT – Routine surveillance has detected West Nile virus in two dead birds and two mosquito samples in Lake County, signaling an unusually late start of the West Nile virus season in Lake County.

Local health officials said Thursday that the bird and mosquito findings serve as reminders that local residents and visitors should remember to take appropriate precautions to avoid mosquito bites, which is the way that West Nile virus (WNV) spreads to humans.

The first WNV-positive dead bird was an American crow collected in Lucerne on July 1. The next WNV-positive dead bird was an immature Western scrub jay collected in the city of Clearlake on Aug. 5.

Two samples of Western Encephalitis mosquitoes (Culex tarsalis), both collected near Upper Lake on Aug. 18, were reported positive for WNV Thursday morning.

West Nile virus first arrived in California in 2003 and in Lake County for the first time in 2004, officials reported. The virus infects humans, birds, tree squirrels, horses and humans and is transmitted through the bite of infected mosquitoes. Once established in an area, it has the potential to cause illness in humans.

In 2008, there were no confirmed human cases of West Nile virus in Lake County, but there was one case of illness in a horse and the virus was detected in dead birds, mosquitoes and in a sentinel chicken flock that is tested routinely.

The low incidence of West Nile virus disease in Lake County residents can be attributed to vigorous efforts to control mosquitoes, according to the Thursday report. While mosquitoes are an important part of the environment and cannot be completely eliminated, the reduction of heavy mosquito populations near places where people live and recreate is an important disease prevention measure.

In addition, people must take personal responsibility to avoid mosquito bites by wearing protective clothing, using appropriate mosquito repellants, and staying indoors during morning and evening hours when mosquito activity is high.

Most (approximately 80 per cent) of people who catch West Nile virus do not show any symptoms. About one in five infected people experience fever, headache, body aches, nausea, vomiting, and occasionally swollen lymph glands or a skin rash. These symptoms can last for a few days, but sometimes continue for weeks.

About 1 in 150 cases of West Nile virus will develop severe illness, which can lead to disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness and other neurological symptoms, sometimes resulting in death.

There is no specific treatment for West Nile virus, nor is there a vaccine for humans, officials reported.

According to the Lake County Public Health Officer, Dr. Karen Tait, “The best way to stay healthy during West Nile virus season is to prevent exposure to mosquito bites. Avoiding West Nile virus infection involves both personal protection against bites and reduction of environmental breeding grounds for mosquitoes. These are precautions that need to be taken every year.”

A lot of people assume that since this has been a dry year and the lake level is low that there are no mosquitoes, but that has not been the case. The Lake County Vector Control District reports that mosquito activity – particularly for the Culex mosquitoes that transmit WNV—has been very high in some localized areas of the county.

The Vector Control District has been regularly trapping and testing mosquitoes throughout the county to identify the areas that are at highest risk, and target those areas for source reduction and treatment.

Lake County Vector Control District Manager and Research Director, Jamesina J. Scott, Ph.D., asks residents to maintain their pools to prevent mosquitoes, and to let the District know of unmaintained swimming pools and spas.

“An unmaintained swimming pool can produce hundreds of thousands mosquitoes per week, and those mosquitoes can fly up to five miles away. So a single neglected swimming pool can increase an entire community’s risk of mosquito bites and mosquito-borne illness,” Scott said.

The Lake County Vector Control District can put mosquito-eating fish into pools that will be out-of-service for a month or more, or use biorational control products like Bti, a bacterial spore that controls mosquitoes without affecting other plants or animals that use the water.

Residents can call the district at 707-263-4770 to report neglected swimming pool or to request mosquito fish, mosquito inspections or mosquito control services.

For more information, visit or .

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