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In the News - Friday, August 1, 2008


—See this week's FRONT PAGE (PDF)


Yosemite firestorm rages on

   A major wildland fire dubbed the Telegraph Fire is burning five miles north of Mariposa and west of Yosemite National Park, but since Wednesday firefighters are reporting that they may have turned the corner on the huge blaze that was sparked by target shooting on Friday, July 25. On Wednesday night some of the 4,000 evacuees been given permission to return to their neighborhoods in the vicinity of Highway 140 and Mariposa, 10 miles west of an entrance to Yosemite National Park.
   The huge firestorm, which has burned nearly 30,000 acres, is still burning within 10 miles of park boundaries and has destroyed at least 25 homes. Several communities outside the park where Park Service employees traditionally own homes, have been threatened by the inferno.

  “It’s really a sad time, especially for those of us [NPS personnel] who have worked at Yosemite,” said Deb Schweizer, fire education specialist at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks who worked for eight years at Yosemite. “I know several people who lost homes during this terrible tragedy.”
   More than 4,000 firefighters, some from as far away as Greece, remained on the lines of the huge blaze that is only beginning to be contained. Schweizer said she was surprised that the local parks were able to keep two hotshot crews on the Kings Canyon fire that is presently the only fire burning in this area that has the potential to grow into a more dangerous fire.
   One veteran Cal Fire spokesperson said he had never seen such extreme fire activity this early in the fire season.

  “We’re actually just getting into the traditional fire season, so the Telegraph Fire is just a preview of what’s in store for the remainder of the summer,” he said.
   Another firefighter on the line said the fire is behaving strangely and is very sporadic.

  “When it first came through the Midpines area, it sounded like a train going by,” the firefighter said.
   Power was restored briefly midweek to El Portal and parts of Yosemite National Park where it has been off since the fire began.   The local post office and a few essential businesses have been operating on generators for more than a week.
   During a typical summer season, more than 4,000 visitors a day enter through the west entrance of the park. Hwy. 140 has been closed intermittently but most tourists are still choosing to enter the popular park even though its scenic views in and around Yosemite Valley are mostly shrouded in smoke.
   Other park destinations, including Tuolumne Meadows, Wawona, and the Mariposa Grove of Big Trees, White Wolf, and Crane Flat, are unaffected.

  “People are still out there hiking, the campgrounds are full, and everyone is taking the smoke in stride,” said Scott Gediman, Yosemite National Park spokesperson.
   The tourists are still in the park, but the uncertainty of the approaching firestorm is causing some tension and lots of visitors to shorten their stay. Along with the wafting smoke that pales in comparison as to what lies northeast of Fresno, some of those visitors are showing up in Three Rivers and at Sequoia National Park.
   After an extremely dry spring, California has been dogged by a record number of wildfires since June. Hot dry conditions turned dozens of lightning strikes into prolonged fire fights. Resources are already stretched thin and local officials are reporting that the blazes in the current fire season have already cost the State of California nearly $600 million at the end of the fiscal year, July 31.

Planning Commission reviews

General Plan comments

   The Tulare County Planning Commission closed one public hearing and voted to open another in what’s become a very long, and likely to get longer, review of the General Plan 2030 Update and its Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR). The latest round in the County’s general plan process was held Wednesday, July 23, in the meeting room of the commission at the south Mooney Boulevard government center.
   Dave Bryant, a division manager for the Tulare County planning department, told the commission and a packed gallery that to date the county has received 94 comment letters.

  “County staff is now working to determine which technical studies may or may not be needed to complete the DEIR,” Bryant said.
   Bryant listed the following areas relating to specific comments that cited a need for more data: aesthetics, agriculture, air quality, biology, cultural resources, geology, climate change impacts, hydrology, land use, public services, transportation, and utilities.
   As a result, Bryant is meeting with the county’s general plan consultant to determine the scope and cost for more studies to be included in the final general plan. The initial comment period on the DEIR was closed April 14 but several comments received after that date have also been included.
   At Wednesday’s hearing, 11 more respondents entered comments into the public record. Terese Lane, a Visalia teacher and City of Visalia planning commissioner urged the county “not to throw out the baby with the bathwater.”

  “In the County’s general plan we need to focus on the significant and unavoidable impacts,” said Ms. Lane. “Let’s avoid a rush to judgment.”
   Lane said the significant issues are traffic, air quality, water storage, energy, wastewater, and storm water. In other words, she said, there needs to be a complete infrastructure assessment.
   Lane ended with a rhetorical question: “Can the County of Tulare really control water use?”
   Other speakers echoed Lane’s concerns. Laurie Schwaller of Three Rivers said people in Tulare County want a sustainable, healthy future.

  “We need to keep that vision,” Schaller said.
   Following the public comment period, six of the seven commissioners made brief summary statements. There was a consensus that some progress has been made but there is still much to be accomplished before the completion of the General Plan 2030 Update.
   The commission’s vote directed the planning department to re-publish the notice of the next round of public hearings for a date and time to be determined by staff.

5.4 quake rocks SoCal

   It was felt in a wide swath from Los Angeles to Nevada and Arizona, but Tuesday’s 5.4-magnitude earthquake was not even close to being the “Big One.” That announcement was made by a spokesperson for the USGS (United States Geological Survey) in the aftermath of numerous temblors that shook buildings, rattled dishes, and frayed nerves.
   More than 50 aftershocks have followed since the earthquake struck shortly before noon on Tuesday, July 29. The epicenter was located in Chino Hills, some nine miles deep and 30 miles east of downtown Los Angeles.
   USGS officials called the series of temblors a drill for the Big One that is forecast to occur in California within 30 years. Since 1991, there have been 14 quakes with higher magnitudes than the Chino Hills event registered in California.
   Scientists label the years since the deadly Northridge quake of 1994 as a relatively quiet seismic period. That quake measured 6.7 but was not the most powerful earthquake in recent years.
   The Landers Quake of 1991 claims that distinction with a magnitude 7.3. Two other strong quakes of 7.2 have been experienced in 1992 at Cape Mendocino and in 2005 off the coast of Northern California.
   For most Southern California residents on Tuesday there was a loud boom followed by several seconds of intense rocking. After the Northridge quake of 1994, hundreds of San Fernando Valley residents relocated north to the San Joaquin Valley, including several new residents who came to Three Rivers.
   Geological experts have long debated whether a major quake could occur in Kaweah Country. The effects of several major quakes since 1952 (Tejon, Coalinga, and Mammoth) have been felt here but no major quakes nearby have ever been recorded.
   The 1906 quake in San Francisco caused major snowslides in Mineral King that wiped out the Smith House Hotel, many cabins, and several other buildings. One researcher, who worked as a park ranger in Sequoia National Park during the 1980s, reported that it is still prudent to have earthquake insurance in Three Rivers because there is a dormant fault that runs near the surface in the vicinity of Ash Peaks.

State outlaws trans fats

   When a state has a governor that is devoted to health and fitness, it makes sense that its residents would learn to become healthier and more fit as a result. On Friday, July 25, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed AB 97, which will phase out the use of trans fats in all California restaurants beginning in 2010 and from all baked goods by 2011.
   Scientific evidence demonstrates a strong association between the consumption of artificial trans fat and the development of coronary heart disease and stroke, as well as other chronic conditions such as Type 2 diabetes. Research also suggests that children who consume trans fats at age three or four will develop heart disease sooner; during studies, some kids as young as eight already have the high cholesterol and blood fats that clog arteries.
   Some foods that contain trans fats are fast food, stick margarine, microwave popcorn, pop tarts, and commercially-prepared fish sticks, cakes, candy, and cookies.
   According to the New England Journal of Medicine, eliminating artificial trans fats from the food supply could prevent between six and 19 percent of heart attacks and related deaths each year. Coronary heart disease is California’s leading cause of death.
   Gov. Schwarzenegger has put in place some of the nation’s most innovative strategies to promote health and nutrition, including:

  —Establishing the toughest school nutrition reforms in the nation and taking junk food and sugary sodas off school campuses.

  —Banning trans fat and food fried in unhealthy oils in school meals.

  —Investing millions of dollars in fresh fruits and vegetables in school meals.

  —Adopting the first-ever physical education standards.

  —Convening a Summit on Health, Nutrition and Obesity where leaders of the public and private sector make commitments to change business practices to promote health.

  —Reinvigorating the Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, which focuses on rewarding positive leadership for implementing healthy living in youth.

  —Proposing a comprehensive healthcare reform plan that emphasizes prevention and wellness.
   Although some cities have banned trans fat, California is the first state to do so.

Lightning-caused fire burns

in Tehipite area of Kings Canyon

   After a series of lightning storms passed through Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks last month, fire managers on a reconnaissance flight detected a fire above the Tehipite Valley. The so-named Tehipite Fire is approaching 200 acres in size, burning above the remote valley between 5,400 and 7,400 feet in elevation.
   The fire is being monitored but allowed to burn in vegetation that includes mixed conifer and live oak. Although steep terrain and the remote area make fire response difficult, its proximity to the park’s boundary with Sierra National Forest means that efforts are being made to keep it from spreading outside the park, but there are no threats to private property or structures.
   About 75 personnel from the Kings-Canyon-based Arrowhead Hotshots and the Fulton Hotshot crew from Sequoia National Forest are assigned to the fire.
   As of this week, the section of trail between Simpson Meadow on the east and Sierra National Forest on the west that travels through the heart of Tehipite Valley was closed due to the fire.
   At the beginning of this week, the fire was burning below the trail but by now was expected to have crossed the trail as it continues burning uphill and toward the south and west boundaries of the park.
   Five other lightning-caused fires were also discovered but have been declared out or are showing little activity. This is in contrast to active lightning fires throughout the rest of the state that kept firefighters busy throughout July.


All eyes are on China

By John Elliott

   Unless you have been on an extended trip in the backcountry, most likely you are among the millions around the world experiencing the hype for what will undoubtedly be one of the most memorable Olympic spectacles. Being billed as “One World, One Dream” the XXIX Olympiad is set to open August 8 in China.
   If you have tickets for any of the August 8-to-24 Olympic events you are indeed fortunate and will be among those standing in line at a tipping point in history.
   A tipping point because these Olympics will afford an incredible glimpse into China and its modern capital — Beijing. The games, a coming-out party for one the world’s great cities, will also mark the acceptance of Beijing as a global capital and a hint of the role the Chinese and its 1.7 billion citizens will play in the future of the planet.
   Beijing, the setting for the games, is a gaudy, modern city of 17 million. Years of planning and redevelopment have gone into the preparation for these games. When this mass of humanity gathers in such close quarters there will be issues — air quality, mass transit, disaster preparedness, anti-terrorism —all realms of activity that the global community must institutionalize.
   I am somewhat ashamed to admit how little I know about Chinese culture and the history of their civilization. So for a crash course and some of the back story of these Olympics it was fortuitous that one of my favorite authors, Simon Winchester, produced a well-timed book of inestimable value.
   The 316-page book The Man Who Loved China: The Fantastic Story of the Eccentric Scientist Who Unlocked the Mysteries of the Middle Kingdom (HarperCollins, 2008, 316 pages, hardcover, $27.95), according to one reviewer, makes scholarship positively sexy. What I enjoy most about Winchester is that he is a master at telling a complex story so that it is lucid and compelling.
   The China story details the career of Joseph Needham, a brilliant Cambridge biochemist who became obsessed with everything Chinese in the 1930s, decades before it became fashionable to do so. His infatuation it seems began with the allure of a Chinese woman, a scientist like himself whom he encountered and fell in love with when she was a Cambridge researcher.
   Needham’s intellectual curiosity for things Chinese was rooted in something Francis Bacon once famously said: The three most important inventions that profoundly changed the world are gunpowder, printing, and the compass.
   These inventions had all been made and employed by the Chinese first and so, Needham soon realized, had scores of other things like blast furnaces, arched bridges, crossbows, smallpox vaccinations, the game of chess, toilet paper, seismoscopes, wheelbarrows, stirrups, powered flight, and the list goes on.
   In fact, the book contains a list in Appendix 1 of hundreds of Chinese inventions and discoveries, which was originally published in Needham’s Science and Civilisation in China, Vol. VII, Part 2.

  “The mere fact of seeing them listed brings home to one the astonishing inventiveness of the Chinese people,” Needham wrote a couple of years before his death in 1995.
   His first visit to China came in 1943 as a liaison for the British government, an outreach of England’s academic community.   Needham’s mission was to head up a small task force to provide support for Chinese scholars and the universities that were trying to cope with bombings and the atrocities of the Japanese occupation.
   In China, Needham was enthralled by the resiliency and inventiveness of the Chinese people. He noted along with the rest of the world, China was simply too large, too mobile, and too resourceful to ever be permanently occupied or defeated in a war.
   During these years, Needham singlehandedly encouraged and furnished badly need supplies for academics who were trying to survive the war. While performing this indispensable foreign service, Needham gathered copious notes and contacts for a history of technology that he wanted to produce to explain why the world looked upon China with so much ignorance.
   Along the way, Needham taught himself to read and write Chinese, and this incredible achievement in part guaranteed the success of his project that consumed him for the rest of his life. He remains to this day the best known non-Chinese personality of 20th-century China.
   The contribution Needham has made to global understanding of the Chinese may not be known for quite some time. Certainly it will take longer than for even the most scholarly among us to digest Needham’s 24-volume Science and Civilisation: the first volume was published in 1954 and the last one published recently with more in the works. Published by Cambridge University Press, the landmark works now stand at 15,000 pages and 3 million words.
   Even more remarkable than Needham’s prodigious life’s work was perhaps this sentiment that he shared with the Chinese, which he saw on a giant billboard in rural China in 1948: “Without Haste, Without Fear, We Conquer the World.”
   After 5,000 years of patiently waiting, watching, and learning, August 2008 may indeed be China’s appointed time. Joseph Needham would not be dismayed nor would he be the slightest bit surprised.

The Sixties and today

By Sarah Elliott

   There are two reasons why it was mandatory for me to read this book. The first is because I had not yet entered my teen years by the time the Sixties gave way to the Seventies, so a lot of the social and political implications of those turbulent times went over my head, but interestingly have influenced me all the same. In addition, Tom Brokaw, author of BOOM! Voices of the Sixties: Personal   Reflections on the ‘60s and Today (Random House, 2007, 662 pages, hardcover, $28.95), has long been a journalistic hero of mine.
                                    If it feels good, do it
I have read all of Tom’s books, including The Greatest Generation. While this previous book about the generation that grew up in the Depression and fought in World War II seems that it would be the opposite of Boom!, there are similarities since both books are about generations that changed the course of American history.
                                      The times,
                                      they are a-changing’

The book loosely follows the Sixties; more exactly the pivotal period from the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963 to the resignation of President Richard M. Nixon in 1974. Tom’s career as a journalist was just beginning in those days, and his job allowed him to cover many of the groundbreaking events that today define the Sixties.
   What Tom determined through interviews and personal reflection is that the polarizing two-party chasm that we deal with in politics today is a direct result of some of the issues, actions, and reactions of the Sixties.
                                   Turn on, tune in, drop out
At the time, the country was reeling over the assassinations of President Kennedy and, five years later, Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. The controversial Vietnam War, the draft, and various movements — civil rights, antiwar, feminism, free speech — were dividing the country. A pervasive drug culture, free love, black power, a music scene with its songs of rebellion, men with long hair, and women without bras created a counterculture that the previous, more inhibited generation had difficulty grasping.
                                      Make love, not war
The book is divided into sections that describe each of the above topics through the eyes of some who were there. Those interviewed are well-known figures who share their retrospect of the Sixties. The book is illustrated with photographs of these people, one from the past and another from the present.
   Some who participated have transcended the decades and remain relevant today in their careers and message (Senator Hillary Clinton, Vice President Dick Cheney, James Taylor, Lorne Michaels, Yvon Chouinard). Others are less often heard from today, but their mark on the Sixties remains (Jack Weinberg, Dolores Huerta, Dick Gregory, Tommy Smothers). From Bill Clinton to Karl Rove, it’s obvious that no one refuses an interview by the venerable Tom Brokaw.
                                Never trust anyone over thirty
“The Sixties brought us bean sprouts, brown rice, veggies, yogurt, whole-grain bread, holistic medicine, and drugs, lots of drugs – from homegrown marijuana to laboratory-produced speed and LSD, from heroin to glue sniffing,” Tom writes in the introduction. “Drug use went from an exaggerated fear in the Fifties, when a little pot was considered a satanic doomsday, to a badge of honor in the Sixties.”
                                If you remember the Sixties,
                                you weren’t there

In addition to detailing the political and cultural climate of the Sixties, I also appreciated the autobiographical aspects of BOOM!, which revealed some of Tom Brokaw’s private life and political persuasions, of which I had known little about even though I have followed his career since the mid 1970s.
                                        Do your own thing
For some readers who were there, BOOM! might not say much that hasn’t been written about before but the perspectives are varied and offer personal insight. The book will assist those who want to turn back the clock or for others who are yearning for a connection, a common cause, and a reason to vote this November.
                                        Give peace a chance!


Allen Lahey
1938 ~ 2008

   Thomas Allen Lahey, a former resident of Three Rivers, died Tuesday, June 22, 2008, at Renown Regional Medical Center in Reno, Nev. He was 69.
   Allen was born Aug. 23, 1938, in Chicago, Ill., to Thomas Patrick Lahey and Alice L. Dyhrberg. For 38 years, he was a trans-Pacific captain with United Airlines.
   Al moved to Three Rivers in 1975 and lived here until relocating to the Tahoe area in 1990.
   Al was preceded in death by his first wife, Dottie, and his mother, Alice Doran (1911-2000), both who were residents of Three Rivers.
He is survived by his wife, Joyce (Collette) Lahey of Reno; daughters Paula Ingalls of Fresno and Rachael Collette; sons Kevin, Nathan, and Tim Collette of Reno; brothers Paul and William Doran of Illinois; eight grandchildren; and one great-granddaughter.
   A memorial service was held at a Reno church on Monday, June 28.
   Al was a former board member of the Woodlake High School Foundation. Remembrances in his name may be sent to the Foundation at P.O. Box 475, Woodlake, CA 93286.

Ester Rogers
1943 ~ 2008

   Ester Elaine Rogers of Three Rivers died Wednesday, July 16, 2008, in Visalia. She was 65.
   Ester was born Jan. 15, 1943, in Hanford to Harold and Dorothy Rogers. She was raised in Waukena and attended Waukena Elementary School and Tulare Union High School.
   In 1964, Ester married Richard Hardeman. The couple resided in Tulare.
   She married her second husband Sherman Rogers, a lawyer from Tulare, and moved to Three Rivers in 1982.
   She was preceded in death by Sherman Rogers in September 2007.
Ester is survived by her sons, Todd Hardeman of Three Rivers and Tyne Hardeman of Tulare; two stepdaughters, Andrea Doherty of Cambridge, Mass., and Cynthia Rogers, of New York, N.Y.; and five grandchildren.


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
(559) 561-3627 FAX: (559) 561-0118
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