In the News -
Friday, FEBRUARY 22, 2008
this week's FRONT PAGE (PDF)
With more than 15 inches of rainfall already recorded for
the Three Rivers environs, “normal” never looked so good or
anymore green with lots of sunshine, snow showers, and good air quality
in between. And the weekend forecast calls for more of all of the above,
and so do the Ides of March, according to the traditional Farmer’s
Almanac, which has been publishing weather forecasts since 1792.
In the meantime, be sure to get out and enjoy all that new
snow that at elevations above 7,000 feet is piled up in an eight-foot,
nicely layered snowpack. At the stake currently on the ground at Lodgepole
in Sequoia National Park, rangers are reporting 78 inches of snow.
That means a total of 129 inches for the season and one to
two feet more of the white stuff possible by Monday.
Recent snow survey data for locales like Round Meadow, Panther
Gap, and Farewell Gap indicates that the current snowpack is averaging
120 percent of normal in the Kaweah drainage. The snowfall totals are
similar to 2006, but the colder storms in the current season are furnishing
more staying power to the deepening pack.
Statewide, water stats are looking very good for the rapidly
approaching spring and summer. Precipitation totals are at or above normal
from Eureka (27.38 inches) to San Diego (6.07 inches) with Los Angeles
(12.27 inches) a whopping 130 percent above normal.
Nowhere in California is the disparity of a year ago on February
22 any greater than in Three Rivers. In February 2007, the local rainfall
was 6.98 inches for the year-to-date. After this weekend’s next
round of storminess, Kaweah Country could be looking at 18 inches of rainfall
so in in 2008 or nearly three times the total of what had been recorded
by this date in 2007.
What a difference a year can make.
Rollover at Lake Kaweah;
When an errant driver suddenly veered off Sierra Drive and
clipped the side of the eighth grade classroom at Three Rivers School
during the late afternoon of Tuesday, Feb. 5, it was difficult to imagine
how an accident like that could happen. But last week, when the CHP determined
the driver Gilbert Villegas’s blood alcohol to be three times the
legal limit, .24, the cause of the bizarre crash was obvious.
“In a case like
this, the vehicle is towed, the driver is taken into custody, cited, and
then later released from jail,” said Officer Travis, the CHP public
information officer in the Visalia office. “The arresting officer’s
report is then forwarded from our office to the District Attorney. A case
routinely takes about 30 days to go to court.”
IN A SEPARATE accident that occurred Tuesday, Feb. 19, around
1:30 p.m. at Lake Kaweah, a Chevrolet pickup traveling eastbound left
the roadway east of Horse Creek near the top of the passing lane. According
to unconfirmed reports, the pickup struck some rocks and rolled over several
times, landing off the roadway.
According to Officer Travis, the cause of that accident is
still being investigated and more information will be made public as it
North Fork break-in
Four firearms were among the items missing in a recent North
Fork burglary, according to a report filed with the Tulare County Sheriff’s
Department. Scott Kalloger, 43, who lives about six miles up North Fork
Drive, told deputies that someone entered his residence Wednesday, Jan.
30, and stole a 12-gauge Mossburg shotgun, a Ruger 22-caliber rifle, a
Browning 9mm pistol and a Freedom Arms 22-caliber handgun.
The firearms and other property that were missing in the
heist is valued at $2,100.
The case is under investigation and may be linked to a recent
spate of local break-ins.
3R student demonstrates
imaging at Ag Expo
Throughout the three-day run of the 41st World Ag Expo at
Tulare (Feb. 12-14) that featured 1,600 exhibitors, the newest products
in the industry, and more than 100,000 attendees roaming the show’s
grounds, it was easy to miss as much as you were able to see in the frantic
activity. But for those who checked out the student competition in Edison’s
AgTAC Center, they caught a glimpse of the future and witnessed how new
technology will play a role in the management of agriculture.
The demonstrations by some very talented students —
from Fresno State, UC Davis, and Cal Poly — were part of a competition
sponsored by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineering
that called for posters and documentation on how these future industry
innovators might improve farming and its management.
Nick Simonian, an industrial technology student in the master’s
program at Fresno State, thinks digital imagery could do a great deal
for farmers, especially when they need immediate data to make a decision
that might be able to increase yields or make the critical difference
if a farmer makes a profit or not.
Nick, who was raised in Three Rivers and graduated from Woodlake
High School, developed his project by combining some of the things he
grew up doing in Three Rivers: flying model airplanes, shooting digital
photos, and plotting GPS data. It sounds complicated but Nick says he
can make it work, and someday there might even be a line of products based
on what his project has already proven practical to do.
“My project involved
the use of an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) to gather digital data such
as high-resolution still images and video as well as the GPS coordinates
of the flight path,” Nick explained. “One of the uses for
management is a map of the fields showing densities that might indicate
problems with water, fertilizer, etc., that could easily be spotted from
the air. Applications of fertilizers, for example, could be more efficient
and less wasteful.”
Nick also said that if crop damage occurs, the photos could
serve as proof for insurance claims. Eventually, he said, he will map
a scheduled flight plan on a computer program that will be available with
a click of a mouse.
flights would eliminate the need for human flight inputs and be more cost
effective,” Nick said. “Imagine the implications for law enforcement
and in all kinds of industrial applications.”
Nick said he knows students who are working in the industrial
tech field for companies like Frito Lay, Halliburton, and Raytheon, and
the possibilities are limitless.
When asked what he might end up doing and what will be the
outcome of his research, he said: “I don’t know if a single
product will come from my project but a craft capable of manual and autonomous
flight would be very marketable. My goal is to make a prototype that can
recover data with precise geographical reference.”
The verdict is in
Mock Trial season concludes
A professional-looking team of Woodlake High School students
spent several evenings this month in the Tulare County Superior Court.
And they weren’t themselves.
Mock Trial is like being in a play, sort of, where the students
are assigned a character and they become that person. Then again, it’s
like an athletic event, where they compete fiercely to earn points for
their team and WIN.
In contrast to an acting performance, however, the students
don’t have a script to memorize. They are instead required to think
on their feet and respond appropriately to the words and actions of other
And the teams don’t face off on a court, but in a court,
and being on the bench in this competition is a good thing.
Woodlake High’s Mock Trial team 2008 consisted of 21
students, 10 from Three Rivers. Kevin Skeen, a WHS teacher also from Three
Rivers, is the coach.
Here’s how it works: High school teams from throughout
California are provided with the same case, then work through their respective
county competitions in hopes of ultimately participating for the state
(March 28-30, 2008, in Riverside) and national (May 8-10, 2008, in Wilmington,
Del.) championships. This year, members from competing high
schools acted as defense and prosecution and provided witnesses and courtroom
officials in the fictitious case of People v. Palmer, which dealt with
an alleged revenge murder of a famous television producer and admissibility
of Memory-Mapping as scientific evidence in the trial.
Then, for three weeks this month, the schools compete in
a real courtroom, with real judges and a jury. Teams consist of trial
lawyers, pretrial lawyers, witnesses, bailiff, court recorder, journalist,
court artist, and other support.
“Our school is
proving to be a serious rival to Tulare County’s top powerhouse
teams,” said Coach Skeen. “It was a long, hard-fought trial
with a packed courtroom, standing room only, which I’m happy to
report was dominated by Woodlake High spectators.”
In Round 1 this year, WHS outmaneuvered Exeter High, winning
52 points to their 48.
In Round 2, Woodlake’s defense went up against Redwood
High’s prosecution. Redwood, last year’s overall county champion
(WHS was ranked third in 2007), bested WHS, 53 to 47.
According to Coach Skeen: “Again, Woodlake High showed
their mettle in the most crucial phase of the entire trial, the pretrial
motion. The points earned in this phase are tripled in value and can often
determine the winner of the competition.
“I have to say,
this was the most dynamic and difficult pretrial motion I have ever witnessed
in Mock Trial, and Woodlake’s Ben Pfenninger deserves special recognition
for an outstanding performance. The entire courtroom was literally on
the edge of their seats due to the intensity of the judge’s questioning
and the performances of both teams. Ben was grilled and challenged time
and again by the judge, who seemed to be intent on getting one of the
lawyers to crack and falter. But Ben held steady, argued with agility,
and kept on his point, doing absolutely the best job I’ve ever witnessed.”
In Round 3, Woodlake’s prosecution lost 48 to 52 to
Fresno County’s top team’s defense, Buchanan (Clovis), which
was filling in for an absent Tulare County team.
By Round 4, things were looking rosy as the WHS defense went
up against Orosi High’s prosecution and garnered the win, 52 to
48. Then WHS received the disappointing news that they wouldn’t
be moving on to the next round.
“Due to a quirky
point-rating system, Orosi High, rather than Woodlake, advanced to the
Semifinals,” explained Coach Skeen. “This system, called ‘power
scoring,’ seeded Orosi High as the third ranked team, ahead of Woodlake
at fifth place.”
the way it goes,” said Kevin philosophically. “Good sportsmanship
is what high school competitions are all about, so the Woodlake Tigers
will just return next season more determined than ever to be in the final
Tulare County schools participating in the 2008 Mock Trial
were Dinuba, Exeter, Lindsay, Orosi, both Tulare high schools, and all
four of Visalia’s.
Postal rates increase in May
A year ago in May, the cost of a first-class stamp was raised
from 39 cents to 41 cents. On May 12, 2008, the cost will increase another
penny, to 42 cents.
Looking back, in 1981, a first-class stamp cost 20 cents.
The price has more than doubled in the last 27 years.
Twenty-five years before 1981, in 1956, a stamp cost five
cents and the postcard rate had just been doubled, to two cents.
If looking for a good return on your stamp investment, now
is the time to purchase the “Forever” stamp. Its price will
go up at the same time, meaning those stamps can still be purchased for
41 cents but will remain good for first-class postage after the rate increase
The U.S. Postal Service has sold five billion Forever stamps
since they were introduced last April, prior to the last price increase.
The USPS plans to have an additional five billion in stock to meet the
expected demand before the May price change.
The charge for other services, such as advertising mail,
periodicals (newspapers included), and packages will also change. Changes
in the price for Priority Mail and Express Mail will be announced at a
While the charge for the first ounce of a first-class letter
will rise, the price of each added ounce will remain at 17 cents, so a
two-ounce letter will go up a penny to 59 cents.
The cost to mail a postcard will also go up a penny, from
26 to 27 cents.
In the past, raising postage rates was a long, complex process
involving hearings before the independent Postal Regulatory Commission.
However, under a new law regulating the post office that took effect in
2006, the USPS is allowed to increase rates with 45 days notice.