- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 6, 2015

May 6

Chico Enterprise-Record: Accident victim still having an impact on world

When Chico State University student Kristina Chesterman was hit and killed by a drunken driver in Chico nearly two years ago, it was such a tragic story that nobody could have been looking for silver linings.

It’s hard to imagine the pain felt by her parents, Sandra and Dave Chesterman of the Bay Area city of Livermore. Their 21-year-old daughter was riding her bicycle home in the dark on Nord Avenue when she was hit by a 19-year-old who was driving with four times the legal limit of alcohol in his system. Riley Hoover was caught and is in prison. Sandra and Dave Chesterman surely were in a prison of their own.

But over time, some good emerged that gave the grieving parents and others a glimpse into the goodwill Kristina Chesterman created in her abbreviated life.

Kristina was an organ donor and her heart saved a woman’s life, while other organs helped out four other ailing people, including two infants. Kristina had a bucket list, which family members and strangers helped her complete after she was gone. The accident gave Caltrans the impetus to widen the bike lanes on the bridge where Chesterman was hit and restripe the road, keeping cars a safer distance away.

Now money is being raised in the nursing student’s memory for the Kristina Chesterman Memorial Clinic in Nigeria, which will serve women and children in an area with minimal medical services. Chico State nursing students have raised about $45,000 for the project.

The latest development in the uplifting saga came this week in Chico with a screening of the movie “The Power of the Heart” at the El Rey Theatre. Chesterman’s story is a centerpiece in the film based on a book by Baptist de Pape, who planned to attend the showing. The movie features the good work done by people like Maya Angelou, Jane Goodall and Deepak Chopra. When de Pape heard Chesterman’s story, he decided to include it in the movie.

The movie was shown in Livermore on Monday.

“I went to the screening (Monday) night and there wasn’t a dry eye in the building,” Jeremy Thomas, the reporter who has been covering the story for the Contra Costa Times, wrote in an email. “I’m sure out there in Chico the reception will be the same. Kristina’s story is truly a universal one and it’s been incredible to see how many people have been impacted by it.”

Both the screening in Livermore and the one in Chico were fundraisers for the medical clinic in Nigeria. See more about the project, including how to donate, at www.kristinachestermanclinic.org.

The movie and clinic in honor of the student who dreamed of helping sick people in underdeveloped nations are just two more uplifting developments for parents who have been dealing with an unspeakable loss.

“She’s still trying to influence the world,” said Dave Chesterman. And she is succeeding.


May 5

Contra Costa Times: Time to end “doctor shopping” for addictive drugs

It’s time for California doctors to get on board with the statewide effort to curb prescription drug abuse.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has called the problem an epidemic. Per-capita use of highly addictive prescription opiates in the United States increased fivefold from 1997 to 2007. Medicare-covered opiate prescriptions increased 24 percent from 2007 to 2010.

One of the key problems is patients who “doctor shop,” getting prescriptions from multiple physicians, either to feed their own habits or collect drugs to resell on the street. One remedy is a statewide database that shows doctors whether their patients are also going elsewhere for the same medications.

That database exists, but everyone agrees it’s inadequate. Thanks to 2013 legislation authored by Rep. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, when he was in the state Senate, the system is currently being upgraded.

That work, under the direction of the state Attorney General’s Office and the Department of Consumer Affairs, is expected to be completed by this summer. Pharmacists already input all prescriptions for addictive drugs like OxyContin, Vicodin and Adderall. And, by year’s end, all doctors will be required to register so they can access the system.

But there’s still no requirement that physicians actually use the database.

Doctors successfully fought DeSaulnier’s attempt to include such a mandate in his legislation. And they’re fighting it again, this time opposing Senate Bill 482, by state Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, which would require that doctors check the database before issuing prescriptions and again once annually for each patient using the medications.

The powerful California Medical Association should get on the right side of this issue to help stem the flow of pills that are destroying lives of patients, as well as children and adults who acquire them on the streets.

Let’s be clear, no one is trying to stop the legitimate prescription of pain medications. These drugs, used correctly, can alleviate otherwise disabling symptoms. But we must stem the abuse.

The CMA argues that there’s no need for the mandate. It claims doctors will use the database even if they’re not required to. Good ones will. The question is why the medical association is trying to protect the others. This should not be optional.

Doctors also say they don’t want to be told how to practice medicine. That, of course, misses the point. Lara’s bill merely requires that before prescribing for any legitimate use of addictive medications, physicians first take a moment to check their computer.

In doing so, they might save a life. Isn’t that what doctors are supposed to do?


May 6

The Marysville Appeal-Democrat: Be ready and set, and go when wildfire near

There was just enough moisture over the winter and spring months here to green up the prairies and hills around here . for just a little while. All that new growth? It’s drying out fast. It will be tinder dry before very long.

That complicates things. So do firefighting budgets, and so does water availability due to drought conditions. So we’re pushing along the “Wildfire Awareness Week” (May 3 to 9) agenda: Be prepared for the worst.

Drought conditions significantly elevate our fire danger. And during this awareness week, CalFire is trying to remind everyone of the role they play in preparing for and preventing wildfires.

“With a record dry and warm winter, Californian’s fire activity has been nearly double what it normally is for this time of year,” said Chief Ken Pimlott, CalFire director, in a news release.

“Our firefighters continue to meet the challenges posed by California’s historic drought, but we all must do our part to ensure our homes are prepared for wildfire and that residents and visitors to our state take extreme caution to avoid sparking a wildfire.”

On May 1, the Department of Water Resources announced that California’s snowpack water content was only 3 percent of normal, according to the news release. The lack of snow and overall rainfall has led to conditions being much drier than normal, lending themselves to the quick spread of wildfire.

Between Jan. 1 and May 2, CalFire has responded to over 1,100 wildfires that have charred over 4,200 acres. In an average year for the same time period, CalFire would typically respond to fewer than 650 wildfires burning approximately 1,500 acres.

The department encourages us, when it comes to wildfires, to remember “Ready, Set, Go!”

- Being ready for a wildfire starts by maintaining 100 feet of defensible space and hardening homes with fire resistant building materials. During this drought, CalFire is highly recommending residents landscape their yards with drought-tolerant and fire- resistant plants.

- Being set includes having an evacuation plan and an emergency supply kit.

- Lastly, when a wildfire strikes, residents are urged to go. Evacuate early, it’s urged.

CalFire is also urging all Californians to learn the steps to prevent sparking a wildfire. Over 90 percent of the wildfires in the state are sparked by the activity of people, thus the “One Less Spark, One Less Wildfire” campaign.

Residents looking for additional information on how to prepare themselves, their families and their homes for wildfire can visit www.ReadyForWildfire.org. The site offers tips for residents to make their homes more resistant to wildfires and to ensure that their families are ready to evacuate early and safely when a wildfire strikes.


April 26

Imperial Valley Press: Senior hunger, poverty a disgrace to elders

More than a week ago an 80-year-old Calexico man collapsed outside a food distribution site. He hadn’t eaten yet that day, had low blood pressure and was standing out in the sun for two hours.

He’s one of the tens of thousands of California senior citizens living in poverty, probably on a fixed income and out of food.

That seems to be the way it plays out for what is estimated to be - by some measures - more than half of the seniors in California who live on Social Security benefits that have not risen with the cost of housing, prescription medication, utilities and, the increasingly lowest priority, food.

It’s nearly impossible to truly gauge food insecurity levels for senior citizens in the United States. Numbers are studied and compiled for the population as a whole, and hungry children are deservedly tracked with as extreme precision as state and federal governments can muster. Yet for senior citizens, we don’t know how many of them are truly going hungry.

It’s safe to assume that as poverty goes, so does food insecurity. They are interchangeable consequences. We know the senior poverty rate in Imperial County rose to 18.1 percent in 2012.

The Imperial County Food Bank has no idea how many seniors they are attempting to feed through their USDA commodities distributions, but they know the percentages of who is visiting distribution centers in Brawley and Calexico are well over more than half senior. It’s as high as 65 percent in Calexico, officials believe.

It’s a sad fact, one made worse in California by a policy that’s been in effect that denies food stamps to any California senior receiving Social Security benefits. It’s really a nonsensical policy and torturous to watch work in action. Social Security and the California supplemental payment meant to stand in for food stamps does not cover the basic needs of seniors. In all 58 California counties, the amount a senior receives is more than half eaten up by rent; in some counties that cost is much higher.

It’s not just numbers - what it all means is that by the third week of the month, there are thousands of local seniors out of money, out of food and depending on charity just to eat. It’s a disgrace to our parents and the men and women who worked, fought for and raised us.

California is one of the only states that denies its seniors food stamps, and it has to stop. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear that will happen anytime soon. For now, though, a bill in which our legislator Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia is a co-author, AB474, is looking to raise California’s supplemental portion of Social Security, by more than $200 a month if the law passes and remains intact.

For our seniors, it’s not nearly enough. But it’s something. It has to be better than what the system currently provides.

The senior population in the United States is exploding. When all baby boomers reach age 65 by 2029, about one in five Californians will be a senior. The numbers will be staggering.

Yet as it stands today, with the elder population having seen consistent double-digit growth for two decades, federal funding for senior nutrition programs and other senior services has been systematically reduced to one-third of its highest levels over nearly that same period.

Politicians and many in a position to make big statements on national stages remind us how much our seniors mean to us, how we need to take care of them, thank them for all they have done.

That is true, without a doubt. So then why do our actions, the actions of our government and the dismantling of the senior social safety net run counter to that idea? This problem is going to get far worse before it ever gets better.


May 5

Los Angeles Daily News: California as nation-state? It’s a joke you have to think about

The best thing about crackpot ideas in politics - so long as they aren’t actively dangerous - is how much they make us appreciate simple realities, no matter how mundane and problematic they are.

It’s a simple reality that California, though we may proudly fly the gorgeous and stirring Bear Republic flag to remind us of the matter of months when we really were an independent nation, is one of 50 making up the United States of America.

Yes, perhaps we are the best of them - though don’t whisper that to anyone else, as we’d soon get even more than the 39 million souls who already make us the largest state in terms of population.

But does that really mean we would be better off going it alone, just because we are so swell? It’s nice to think so, for a few seconds. No more redistributing our wealth to serve the surely good folks in Delaware, wherever that might be. But just as the nutty notion of dividing California up into six states because we are so large and diverse was given the old heave-ho last year, so must the idea now being floated of seceding from the U.S. of A. be shown for the joke that it is.

But not until we have some fun with it, and after trying it on for size, thank it for helping us to count our state and national blessings.

One of the funny things about the effort, backed by Louis J. Marinelli of San Diego - an occasional crackpot on other issues, mostly known from switching to strong opposition to gay marriage to strong proponent for it - is that he’s not really calling it secession from the union.

Rather, he terms the process he envisions as a “devolution,” calling to mind the delightful ‘80s rock band Devo, which comically punctured the idea that people were actually evolving by citing simple news stories to the contrary.

He calls his proposed initiative, which has received approval by the secretary of state to gather signatures, “A New Hope for California,” and says he wants “to see California become an autonomous region of the United States like Scotland” is in the United Kingdom.

“If people are ready for California to be given the respect it deserves as a nation-state, yet remain part of the United States national system, this is the initiative for them,” Marinelli said.

This way, Marinelli dodges some of the thornier issues raised by the idea of separating ourselves in some way from the rest of the 49. National defense? He doesn’t make that one of his issues, so presumably, if Rhode Island were attacked by Albania, Californians would still serve in a 50-state military force to counter that invasion. The IRS? We would apparently still pay at least some taxes to Washington, D.C., the same way as people who live in Edinburgh pay the London piper, but would somehow not remain a “donor state,” supporting the others.

When we somehow managed to pay less, in Marinelli’s scheme, we could instead invest in solar-paneled rather than asphalt highways, and call our governor “president” instead - Jerry Brown’s dream come true! and, yes, fly the Bear Flag above the Stars and Stripes.

Best of all, Old Glory could keep its even-50 stars. Though one might contain an asterisk.


May 4

Lompoc Record: Raising the bar for grads

As we ease into another graduation season, it’s gratifying to note that California high school students are doing better - at least when it comes to earning a diploma.

The state Education Department has reported graduation rates for the 2013-14 school year are up for the fifth consecutive year, and are the highest in California history.

Statewide, 80.8 percent of seniors graduated, putting California ahead of the national average, and ahead of many states. That too is gratifying, in that California public education had been perceived as losing ground to other states when it comes to student test results and overall achievement.

But wait, there’s more!

That may sound like one of those cheesy TV ads for obscure but must-have kitchen gadgets. But in this case, it is truly something to be proud of - local school districts scored higher on graduation rates than the state average, by quite a margin, and this region’s Latino students did even better.

In the Santa Maria Joint Union High School District, for example, 83.9 percent of students who enrolled in 2010 graduated last year. Among Latino enrollees, it was 82.4 percent receiving diplomas, more than 2 percentage points above the statewide average.

While the latest graduation data is cause for celebration, we shouldn’t be breaking out the party hats just yet. While the statewide average of 80.8 percent graduation may be historic, the other side of the story is the 19.2 percent that don’t make it to the podium on graduation day. That’s nearly a fifth of the young people who enrolled in 2010 not finishing their high school education on a traditional path.

And while kids in local schools outdid their predecessors, when one looks at the statewide picture there is cause for considerable concern.

Certain ethnic groups are not making the same progress as their peers. For example, whereas 92.3 percent of Asian students graduated last year, only 68.1 percent of African-American students made it to the diploma phase of secondary education.

That is of major concern to those who believe social justice is a responsibility of all of society, not just the government. The nationwide trend for African-American students suggests reasons for the civil unrest that has rocked several American cities in recent months.

The problems in Baltimore go far deeper than the unfortunate death of one black man while in police custody. The areas of that city hardest hit by violence, protests and rioting not so coincidentally have a 50-percent jobless rate among young African-Americans, many of whom cannot find jobs because they lack a basic education.

Think of America’s public education system as a giant chain, one that stretches from coast to coast, and border to border. Like every chain, the whole is only as strong as its parts, and low graduation rates among any minority group are a threat to the entire chain.

Among the reasons a minority group lags behind the rest is poverty, and the only way we can imagine that problem being solved is to work toward a stronger, more all-inclusive economy.

This is not so much about the 1-percenters versus the 99-percenters, but more about everyone working toward a common goal, which in this case would be vibrant, lasting, resilient economic vitality.

Watching your teen receive his or her diploma is a terrific thrill, truly one of a family’s most memorable moments. Watching everyone in your child’s class receive a diploma would be even better. America can’t afford a weak link in the chain that holds us together as a nation.


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