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In the News - Friday, February 13, 2009


—See this week's FRONT PAGE (PDF)

On Monday, Feb. 9, snow blanketed the Hospital Rock area,

located at 2,700 feet elevation and six miles up the Generals Highway

from the Sequoia National Park entrance.

The area received additional snowfall Wednesday night

and more is expected Sunday and during next week.

Storms line up to

drench Kaweah Country

   The current series of cold Pacific storms is producing lots of rain and snow throughout California, and that’s great news after a mostly sunny and dry January. In the nearby mountains at 7,000 feet there is more than five feet of snow on the ground and at least one to two feet more feet of the precious white stuff is expected during this weekend.
   As of Thursday, Feb. 12, Lodgepole rangers reported 66 inches at the stake and a total 22.41 inches of precipitation for the season. In Grant Grove, there is currently 33 inches on the ground and that area has received 19.42 inches of precipitation during the current season.
Ash Mountain has recorded 13.30 inches of rainfall to date in the current season. The environs around park headquarters received a dusting of snow on Thursday morning; chain-ups for travel on the Generals Highway to Giant Forest were required for most of the morning in the vicinity of Hospital Rock.
   More rain and snow, heavy at times, is expected throughout the weekend. A winter storm warning will be in effect for the nearby mountains throughout the weekend and into the work week.


Weekend nuptials follow

match made in cyberspace

   She’s 28 years old and a country girl born and raised, who has lived all her life in Three Rivers. He’s 30 and a fifth-generation rancher from Gothenburg, Neb.
  And tomorrow — Valentine’s Day 2009 — April Klocke and Casey Peterson will embark on the adventure of their lives as they are pronounced husband and wife by Pastor Larrie Palmer at the Church at Kaweah. And according to everybody who knows the couple, it’s a match made in heaven.
  April met Casey on the popular Internet matchmaking site eHarmony.com about one year ago to the day. All that sophisticated computer analysis led the couple to each other and convinced both that a life of harmony was within their grasp.
  According to April, the eHarmony process, the visits to and from Nebraska and California, and the fact that the farming business slows down slightly during the cold Nebraska winter made it destiny that the nuptials be held on Valentine’s Day.
   But it wasn’t as easy as it sounds, at least not in the beginning of April’s search for Mr. Right.

  “I’d be the first one to admit that it’s not easy being single in Three Rivers, trying to meet someone to date let alone marry,” April said. “I always figured it was in God’s hands.”
   April had a cousin who met her husband on the eHarmony site so that’s what prompted this aspiring bride to give it a try. In 2006, when April first logged on, there were some matches offered but nobody sparked a flame or even an interesting exchange of emails.

  “The first weekend is free and then you join as a member and that costs approximately $30 per month to subscribe,” April explained. “After a while I became a little discouraged because nothing was clicking.”
   After a few months of searching out prospects, April logged off. She never seemed to get past the standard questions so it looked like her cyber love quest was going nowhere fast.
   Her parents, Darrell and Sally Klocke, longtime South Fork residents, convinced April to give it one more try. 

  “They gave me an eHarmony subscription for Christmas in 2007 and as it worked out, I probably have them to thank the most that I found Casey,” April said.
   But a love match in cyberspace doesn’t always happen at high speed.

  “Once I logged back on, Casey was sent to me as a match, but there was no response after my initial email,” April recalled.
   So April decided not to wait for this potential match to respond first. She sent him the next set of questions, but again nothing arrived in her in-box.
   Casey finally emailed April back and showed a spark of interest. The more impassioned emails that began last Valentine’s Day soon became long, involved phone conversations and then WMIRL… that’s instant messaging for “Wanna meet in real life?”
   In September, Casey boarded an airplane for the first time ever and headed west to meet April and visit California.

  “We packed up the whole family and drove to Fresno to meet his flight,” April said. “Once we got him into the car, we drove straight to the coast.”
   The weekend trip to the Central Coast worked out great because Casey had never seen an ocean, so it was a fun way to break the ice, April recalled. They all returned to Three Rivers in time to attend church on Sunday so Casey could meet some of the congregation and receive a tour of Three Rivers.
   The next day, April drove Casey back to the Fresno airport, but the couple missed Casey’s flight.

  “It was the first time I ever drove to the airport alone, so I guess I didn’t allow enough time to check in,” April confessed.
   The couple had a few more hours together until the next flight so they decided to visit the nearby Chaffee Zoo. It was prophetic in the scheme of things.

  “It really was our first date and the first time we were truly alone,” April said. “We both realized right then and there that we enjoyed being together.”
   Next it was April’s turn to visit the Midwest. In October, accompanied by her brother, Adam, 19, April arrived at the Petersons’ Nebraska ranch. She stayed with Casey’s parents while her brother stayed with Casey at his new house that he had just finished building this past year.

  “I really hit it off with Casey’s parents, so they insisted I return for Thanksgiving to meet more of the family,” April said. “Casey returned to Three Rivers for Christmas, and by that time we were already setting the date and making plans for a life together.”
   April said she is looking forward to moving into her new home in Gothenburg, a small, mid-America town only slightly larger in population than Three Rivers. The community is located in south-central Nebraska off Interstate 80 near the Platte River.
   Gothenburg is part of the Platte Valley and, like the San Joaquin Valley, is home to some big time agribusiness. Its population is around 3,600, give or take a few dozen folks.
   The historic farming community has changed little in the five generations that Casey’s family has been raising corn, soybeans, wheat, and cattle. Casey is a farmer/rancher just like his grandfather and father, both of whom are still active in the Peterson family farming business.
   After the Saturday, Feb. 14, wedding, the couple will honeymoon in Hawaii, another first among places to visit for Casey. Upon their return to the mainland, April will show Casey some more of the California sights and then the newlyweds will make their way back home to Nebraska via the Grand Canyon, the first time either of them has visited there.
   Would April recommend eHarmony for somebody else looking for that perfect match?

  “I’m not sure it works for everyone,” she said, “but I do know that when it comes to a perfect love match, if at first you don’t succeed, try, try, and try again.”

State budget cuts

to impact Tulare County

   There is no question that California’s new budget, in an attempt to close the state’s $42 billion shortfall will contain some deep, hurtful cuts. What’s still up in the air are where, what programs, and which counties will suffer most.
   As to when, Supervisor Allen Ishida said Wednesday that state lawmakers are getting very close. Assembly Republican leader Mike Villines of Clovis told Ishida this week that an agreement might be reached as early as today (Friday, Feb. 13).

  “Of course, we’ve all heard that before,” said Ishida, “and when it does come, it’s not going to make anyone happy. It’s just part of the hysteria.”
   And while Republican lawmakers have spent the last several weeks arguing that California spends too much and rebuffing proposals for any new taxes, their constituents would be hurt the most by the deepest cuts. Republican lawmakers, for the most part, represent California’s least populous and rural counties.
Tulare County is a prime example.

  “That’s because Tulare County is a welfare state,” said Ishida, “We have a very large number of residents on public assistance.”
   In fact, numbers released by the Legislative Analyst’s Office early-on during the budget impasse showed that Tulare County has the dubious distinction of being California’s biggest per capita spender when it comes to government services. A staggering $2,223 annually for each resident is provided from California’s coffers.
   On the opposite end of the spectrum is Marin County who is the state’s biggest taxpayer at $4,793 per capita per annum. The numbers reveal the irony of the Republican lawmakers’ insistence on huge spending cuts while refusing to support any new taxes to help close the budget gap.
   According to Assemblywoman Noreen Evans (D-Santa Rosa), who ordered the taxes and spending report that ranks all 58 counties, it is her Republican colleagues from the rural counties like Tulare and their insistence on an “all-cuts” budget who would be burdened most.
   On the other hand, new taxes would fall largely on the state’s biggest taxpayers like Marin, San Mateo, San Francisco, Santa Clara, and Placer counties. Along with Tulare the next biggest spenders are Modoc, Lake, Yuba, and Fresno counties, respectively.
Villines said he’s trying very hard to ensure that rural counties don’t take a disproportional hit, but across-the-board cuts are coming and they are bound to hurt. He said that new taxes aren’t the answer because that’s only a temporary fix on a recurring symptom.
   Republicans and many Democrats are in agreement that what is needed is a spending cap. That’s the only hope to get the runaway spending under control.
   But putting a limit on spending could be devastating to Tulare County. Cuts in Medi-Cal, for instance, would hit rural counties hardest because the few medical facilities that do operate depend on state assistance just to keep the doors open.
   Last month, Tulare County closed two clinics and there will likely be more cuts. The biggest cuts overall, Ishida said, will come in Health and Human Services.
   A settlement in the budget crisis is impending but lawmakers caution against picking winners or losers. The important thing, according to Villines and most of his Sacramento cohorts, is that the budget problem is solved.
   The new budget will at least answer one question for California voters. Did certain elected officials act in the best interest of their constituents?
   Time will soon tell.


From the Israel front

by Sanya Haralson

   In October, Sanya Haralson embarked on a six-month trip to Israel, where she is using her nursing background as a medical volunteer.
   Shalom (hello) from Israel. I thought everyone at home might be interested in what is happening over here concerning the war on Gaza.
   My original intention when I left home in October was to go into Gaza and work at a hospital run by the Anglican church in Gaza City. That did not work out because Israel would not give me a visa into Gaza. I was told, “No one gets into Gaza; no one gets out.” I guess I should be happy that things turned out this way, but instead I am wishing even more so now that I was there to help with all the wounded.
   For the past two years, since Israel put up walls and began containing the people of Gaza inside the Gaza Strip, I have been interested in going to Gaza. Now that I have been in Israel for four months, my perspective is a little different. Here is some background on what has happened as it has been told to me:
   About 20 months ago the Palestinians held elections. The West Bank elected a Fatah regime (terrorists) and the Gaza Strip elected a Hamas regime (also terrorists). So, Israel has terrorists on both sides of their country and they decided to try and make nice with Fatah because they are a little less extreme than Hamas. In other words, they don’t say that Israel has no right to exist and all Jews should be killed, as Hamas does.
   After this election, Hamas started acting all crazy and there were many suicide-bombing attacks inside Israel for which they took credit, killing and wounding many civilians. In retaliation, Israel built a tall fence, placed border guards around it, and kept Hamas confined so they couldn’t kill any more Israelis.
So Israel creates, in essence, a big prison 24 miles long by six miles wide. What else could they do? Would our government have done anything different given these circumstances? I hope not.
   The innocent people who don't want any trouble and are not radical killers, however, are now trapped inside with these madmen in power with no way to get out. They don't have a way to make a living and their quality of life has plummeted.
   Here is where I started getting two sides of the story: Israel said they sent money for humanitarian reasons — food, electricity, gasoline, and various other commodities. But Israel said Hamas took it all for their own use and did not give it to the people who needed it because they wanted all of the people of Gaza to rise up against Israel and essentially do what they are doing now: start a war.
   In contrast, Hamas says that Israel acted like they were sending food and supplies and were really storing them in huge warehouses at the border. They say there has been very little electricity and gas for almost two years and that the reason they are constantly sending rockets into Israel is because they are being held prisoners in their own land.
   Hamas wants the restrictions lifted. Israel says no because they are afraid of renewed suicide bombings (since they cut Gaza off, there have been hardly any bombings).
   I can see both points of view. I do know that Hamas is a terrorist organization with strong, radical Islamic ideas. They still continue to send rockets into Israeli towns all day long.
   I have heard on the news that these rockets are not killing people so Israel’s response was too severe. But just because there have been few fatalities does not mean it’s a picnic to be bombed everyday.
   The only reason the bombs are not killing people is because Israel has spent millions of dollars on a warning system for incoming rockets. Also, bomb shelters are required in any public facility, and most people have had to pay to build shelters to protect their families. They can't work, go to school, or have any semblance of a normal life because they are running to the shelters several times a day and having to live through those awful sirens. They have been suffering through this for almost two years.
   What would we expect our government to do if our town was shut down for two years with no jobs, no school, etc., because of terrorist threats?
   I think we would all say make them stop.
   With everything that has happened, people are getting crazy on both sides. I don't see how it can be resolved.
   Now, I will tell you how the war is affecting me personally and those living here in Haifa.
   To start with, we have had to stock the shelter beneath us with water, blankets, food, and other survival gear. Americans are required to register with the Embassy and to inform them of any travel plans.
   We have been advised to not take public transportation, stay out of heavily populated places (bars, malls, concerts, etc.), and to not go to Jerusalem, Bethlehem, or any area with a large Arab population. This is very hard for me since I live in the middle of an Arab neighborhood.
   A few days ago, there were four rockets that were fired upon a town only 20 miles from here. The rockets came from Lebanon, which is right across the bay. We can see their lights at night.
   After this happened, there were sirens going and everyone was told to prepare for the worst. Most of Israel is equipped with a 40-second warning system.
   This means that from the time you first hear the siren until the time of impact is 40 seconds. Let me tell you, that is not much time! I have to grab a bag that is packed with enough supplies for 72 hours, get out of the apartment, and down three flights of stairs in 40 seconds. It's nearly impossible.
   Since I live in a predominantly Arab part of town, there are huge numbers of people protesting the war and so, of course, police presence is increased. Security has been tightened everywhere.
   Before I go shopping, out to eat, or enter any office building, I have to pour out the contents of my bag and pass through a metal detector. I don't mind the extra hassle if it prevents a tragedy.
   The other thing that we are dealing with here in the north is the sound of surveillance helicopters and planes overhead. It is constant, day and night. They expect more trouble and have several army units stationed here. During the Lebanon war in 2006, the city I am in was bombed hundreds of times because it is close to Lebanon, it has a port, and it is the largest town in the north. So, needless to say, the people who lived through that are extremely anxious now.
   Where I am working, there are numerous people who suffered and lived through the Holocaust; most who lost family members. When they hear the warning sirens and the sounds of planes overhead it brings back the horrible memories they try so hard to forget.
   I really can't understand why the whole world is protesting against Israel and acting as if Hamas is blameless. So when you hear the stories on the news, remember there are always two sides to every story and think about what you would do if, God forbid, you found yourself in a similar situation.
   Please continue to keep me in your thoughts and prayers as we all will need them in the coming weeks.


‘I made it, and so can you!’
Local Weight Watchers chapter

plans new session

by Mo Basham

   Where has the last year gone? Seems like just last March, I started participating in our local Weight Watchers group here at Ash Mountain.
   And now here it is February and guess what? I achieved my goal of losing 50 pounds!
   I am so excited about this program that I have decided to take the training to become our local Weight Watchers group leader.
   It doesn’t matter whether you want to lose just a little weight or a lot of weight. Weight Watchers teaches you healthy eating habits that will last a lifetime and can lead you to successful weight loss.
   You don’t have to give up the foods you love in order to lose weight; that was the first thing I learned. I also learned to make healthier and smarter food choices.
   So come join our next session that is currently scheduled to start during the first week of March, our one-year anniversary.
   We meet Tuesdays starting at 4:30 p.m. and finish up about an hour later. The sessions are 12 weeks long and there is an easy and convenient payment plan that makes it affordable to participate.
   Please feel free to contact me if you would like to participate or would just like to get some additional information (561-4988).


3R premiere scheduled

for ‘Hollywood on Fire’

   In February 2006, an idea for a subject was formed by a few friends in which we would take a look at the Christian influence of the film industry.
   My first thought was, "Is there such a thing?" I didn’t know, but the idea intrigued me to where I wanted to know more about the subject matter.
   Two long, hardworking years later, in February 2008, the documentary, now called Hollywood on Fire, was making its world debut in, of all the appropriate places, the film capital of its origins to a packed and eagerly-awaiting audience.
   When an audience member asked during the question-and-answer period following the premiere where he could buy a copy, we knew we were onto something.
   Hollywood on Fire explores the past, present, and future of faith in the entertainment industry, as expressed by more than two dozen professionals working in the business, such as Pat Boone (Journey to the Center of the Earth); Eric Close (Without a Trace); Penelope Foster (Free Willy, Operation Dumbo Drop); Mark Joseph (The Passion, Narnia); Phil Roman (How the Grinch Stole Christmas); Jane Russell (Gentlemen Prefer Blondes); Brian Littrell (The Backstreet Boys); Bill Ewing (Men in Black I and II; Stuart Little I and II; Spiderman; The End of the Spear); Howard Kazanjian (Star Wars; Indiana Jones); Chuck Norris (Walker, Texas Ranger), and many more.
   Although the film was made for the teenagers and young adults who feel called and led to be in the business of making movie magic, people of all ages will learn much from the documentary, such as:

  —How Hollywood began as a Christian community.

  —How churches were the first movie theatres in America.

  —And why you are the most important person the Hollywood studios look to when making films.
   To celebrate the nationwide DVD release of the film (Tuesday, Feb. 24), the public is invited to a “Pizza Premiere” at the Three Rivers Pizza Factory on Monday, Feb. 23, at 6 p.m.
   The film is suitable for all ages. It is one hour, 45 minutes, in length and will begin around 6:30 p.m., followed by a question-and-answer session from the audience with the film’s executive producer.
   Enjoy the complimentary food while having fun and fellowship with your friends and neighbors, as you bear witness to another side of Hollywood you didn’t think was possible.
   Seating is limited at the Pizza Factory, so plan on arriving early. There will also be a small supply of DVDs for purchase at 50-percent off the retail price.
   Visit the film’s website at www.hollywoodonfire.com to view film clips and other information about the documentary.
   Kevin Foster, who lives in Kaweah, is the executive producer of Hollywood on Fire.

State announces new

Invasive Species Council

   To minimize the harmful effects of invasions of an increasing number of non-native plants, animals, organisms, and diseases, representatives from the State of California announced Tuesday, Feb. 10, at the World Ag Expo the formation of the California Invasive Species Council. On hand to discuss the new council were A.G. Kawamura, state Department of Food and Agriculture secretary and chairman of the council; Mike Chrisman, secretary of the state Natural Resources Agency and vice-chairman of the council; Lorraine Doyle, Department of Fish and Game warden, with Iris, her invasive-species-sniffing Labrador; and Mike Jarvis, Food and Agriculture deputy secretary of public affairs.
   Both Chrisman and Jarvis have ties to Tulare County.
   Invasives have for years been on the radar of many in Three Rivers and Sequoia National Park as local waterways benefit from such vigilance. One of the invasive species currently threatening California is the quagga mussel. Warden Lorraine took Iris through her paces to show how the canine has been trained to find the mussels, whether in a backpack, on a boat or, at the ag show, in a Kubota.
   Quagga mussels are the size of a bean and can attach to anywhere on a boat. They colonize in fresh water and can survive out of the water for about 30 days, meaning they easily transfer from waterway to waterway.
   Another threat to the state is the Asian citrus psyllid, an aphid-like insect. This pest has the potential to destroy an entire citrus industry.
The council will be charged with coordinating California’s resources to ensure the state is on the frontlines of the war against invasive species. An advisory committee will be formed and charged with prioritizing the response efforts.
   For more information on invasive pests and diseases, the impact of non-natives on California, and methods for reporting an invasive species, go to www.cdfa.ca.gov/invasives/.

Weekly tip

   Styrofoam is destructive— Polystyrene, most commonly known by the brand name Styrofoam, is a petroleum-based plastic that is difficult to reduce, even more difficult to recycle, and almost impossible to reuse. However, its low cost has always made it popular for use as food and drink containers in restaurants and as a packaging material.
   Several cities in California have banned the usage of these non-biodegradable Styrofoam food and beverage containers: Santa Monica, Malibu, San Francisco, Berkeley, Oakland, Monterey, Pacific Grove, and Carmel. Orange, Los Angeles, and four other California counties have followed suit by abolishing Styrofoam containers.
   Currently, a statewide ban is proposed and if the above cities and counties are any indication, in all likelihood, it will be approved. But, until then, consider boycotting the use of Styrofoam by providing your own reusable cups and containers when it is necessary to take a “to go” order.
   Health concerns associated with Styrofoam are:

  —Styrene, the basic building block of polystyrene, causes acute health effects to those working within close proximity to it, such as those exposed during the manufacturing process.

  —Polystyrene is the fifth largest creator of hazardous waste.

  —Toxic chemicals leach out of Styrofoam containers into the food they contain, especially if reheated in a microwave. These chemicals threaten human health and reproductive systems.

  —Styrofoam products are made with petroleum, a non-renewable, heavily polluting resource.

  —The use of hydrocarbons in the manufacture of polystyrene foam releases the hydrocarbons into the air at ground level, combining with other substances in the presence of sunlight to form ozone, a serious air pollutant.

  —The amount of space, by volume, used up in landfills by all plastics is between 25 and 30 percent.

  —Styrofoam food and beverage containers are often dumped into the environment as litter. The material is notorious for breaking into pieces that choke animals and clog their digestive systems. Since Styrofoam is such a lightweight material, about 95 percent air, it regularly finds its way into waterways, such as the Kaweah River and Lake Kaweah, threatening fish and amphibians.

These stories and so much more in the weekly print edition of The Kaweah Commonwealth.


THE KAWEAH COMMONWEALTH is published every Friday in Three Rivers, California.
EDITORS/PUBLISHERS: John Elliott and Sarah Barton Elliott
41841 Sierra Drive (Highway 198), Three Rivers, CA 93271
MAIL: P.O. Box 806, Three Rivers, CA 93271
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