Saturday, April 30, 2011

National University's Third Annual Eco Fair

"Save Green by Going Green"

National University's Spectrum Campus hosted the third annual Eco Fair Apr. 16. This year's theme was "Save Green by Going Green", and focused upon household products that promote energy sustainability.

Spectrum's main hall and front entrance were filled with over 25 companies and organizations promoting their products and services.

This year's fair wasn't short of entertainment, either. The musical group Caprice Strings, which was set up near the reception area, charmed visitors with melodious sounds of the violin, viola, and cello.

Among the groups represented at the Eco Fair was Project Wildlife, an organization that cares for injured or displaced wildlife including bats, raccoons, and deer. "We get about 10,000 animals in a year," said Project Wildlife volunteer Cindy Meyers. "And we rehabilitate and get them ready for eventual release."
In order to show visitors an example of the animals that Project Wildlife rehabilitates on a regular basis, Meyers brought along a Mexican Free-tailed Bat, which she referred to as an "animal ambassador". "This bat came to us five years ago and all the fingers in his left hand were broken," she said. Since the bat can no longer fly, Project Wildlife applied for a permit to keep him as a non-releasable educational animal.

In addition to the many organizations and companies present, there were several student presentations from an NU environmental science course, and from students of National University Academy, which is a charter school for K-12 students that utilizes several National University campuses.

The 2011 Eco Fair was planned and organized by professors Mike Maxwell, Melinda Campbell, Annette Cyr, Maryam Davodi-Far, Huda Makhkuf, and was sponsored by NU's Center for Cultural and Ethnic Studies, and Ssubi Beads.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Tackling San Diego's Homeless Situation

A new settlement gives the SDPD the ability to ticket people for sleeping on the street.
After a three-year legal battle with homeless advocates, the San Diego Police Department is now able to step up efforts to reduce the problem of people sleeping on the streets.

2007 saw a lawsuit against the city by homeless advocates who didn't feel it was fair for the homeless to be ticketed when they had nowhere to go. For three years, the SDPD was not allowed to issue citations to the homeless between 9 p.m and 5:30 a.m.

A settlement was reached in the lawsuit in Feb. which would allow the SDPD to enforce the illegal lodging laws, but there is one stipulation: the police can only cite a violator if there are no beds available at shelters, or if the person contacted refuses help.

In a Feb. press conference, city Attorney Jan Goldsmith said the law will help to not only to clean up the streets, but it will help people who are in desperate need of treatment.

According to Sergeant Rick Schnell, who heads up the Homeless Outreach Team of the SDPD, there have only been a few cases of persons being cited for refusing help.

Anyone who has visited the downtown area can see the problem for themselves; scores of homeless are camped out along sidewalks and in parks, causing concerns for residents and business owners.

Visitors to San Diego have also taken note of the problem. In a February letter to the editor in the San Diego Union-Tribune, a tourist from Auckland, New Zealand wrote a fairly scathing account of his experience in seeing the number of people sleeping on the streets.

"Where am I supposed to go?" exclaimed Ralph Horstman. "Great, they can force me out, but I have nowhere to go." Horstman, a 62-year-old-homeless veteran of the Vietnam War, moves from place to place to avoid scrutiny from the police.

According to Sgt. Schnell, the SDPD does not target the homeless, and usually will only contact them when there are complaints from residents or business owners.

Bob McElroy, chairman and CEO of the homeless advocacy group the Alpha Project, feels that the law puts a burden on police officers. "It's not the cop's job," he said.

What the city really needs to do is build some new shelters," said Schnell. "That's what's going to help the situation."

 The city is currently trying to get a permanent shelter built which would have 220 beds.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Man Arrested in Santee After SWAT Standoff

A Santee neighborhood is evacuated.
Several homes in a Santee neighborhood were evacuated Mar. 16 when the San Diego sheriff's SWAT team responded to an alleged kidnapping. The standoff resulted after a man reportedly took his girlfriend hostage. Neighboring homes were evacuated for over four hours.
Authorities were alerted to the 10900 block of Chantilly Court about 5 a.m. after a neighbor called to report that they had heard a disturbance, sheriff's deputies said.
When deputies arrived, the suspect, 31-year-old Sean Arevalo, refused to come out of the house, then took his girlfriend hostage. "He grabbed her by the arm and pulled her into the room," said Sergeant Tom Poulin of the San Diego Sheriff's Department. Arevalo also refused to speak to deputies and was armed with a knife, Poulin said.
The sheriff's SWAT team was notified and quickly arrived on the scene. Several neighbors were also evacuated.
Phyllis Birrouty, who lives three houses away, was out watering her flowers when sheriff's deputies, detectives, and members of the SWAT team arrived.
"A man came up and said ‘ma'am, we're having a hostage situation. This isn't the best place for you to be', so I went inside," she said.
"They looked like they were going off to war," said Joseph Birrouty, describing the SWAT team. "I've never seen anything like that before."
The standoff lasted until about 10:40 a.m. when the SWAT team made entry into the home using a flash grenade, Poulin said. "The suspect was then taken into custody without incident," he said.
According to sheriff's deputies, Arevalo was a former resident of the home, but was kicked out when he and a female roommate had a dispute. On Mar. 10, deputies arrested Arevalo after he threatened to shoot the female roommate. She was in the process of filing a temporary restraining order against him.
Dan Steele, who lives two houses away, has noticed sheriff's deputies arriving at the home numerous times in the several months that the tenants have rented there. In what he describes as a community of "quiet, hard-working people", the residents of the home were not well-liked.
"I'd like to see them go," said Steele. "It's just a bad environment."
Arevalo is scheduled to be arraigned Mar. 18.

Preliminary Hearing For Murder and Arson Suspect Postponed

A man accused of murdering his estranged wife to appear in court Mar. 30.

The preliminary hearing for the estranged husband of a woman whose body was found burned on the UCSD campus last October has been postponed until Mar. 30. 50-year-old Julio Angel Garcia-Puente is accused of murdering his wife, 38-year-old Carlsbad resident Lorena Gonzalez, then burning her body.
According to Deputy District Attorney Nicole Rooney, a witness for the prosecution was not able to make the initial Mar. 10 preliminary hearing, and a motion to postpone was filed. "The witness is out-of-state," she said.
Garcia-Puente first appeared in court Nov. 10, and pleaded not guilty to charges of murder and arson. The judge set his bail at $1 million.

Firefighters discovered Gonzalez's charred remains when they responded to a vehicle fire in the 1600 block of Voight Drive Oct. 30. According to police, neither the suspect nor the victim were in any way connected with UCSD; the reason her body was placed there remains a mystery. Garcia-Puente is accused of burning Gonzalez's body to destroy the evidence of her murder, police said.
The Medical Examiner's Office conducted an autopsy on Gonzalez's remains Nov. 1. The cause of her death was strangulation, police said.  "Initially the cause of death was sealed because they didn't want the suspect to learn we knew that it was a homicide and he would flee, which he did anyway," said  Sergeant David Johnson of the San Diego Police Department.
Shortly after Gonzalez's body was discovered, Garcia-Puente was named a suspect by San Diego police. According to authorities, he was an unemployed transient who frequented Carlsbad and San Marcos. Additionally, Garcia-Puente was not a legal resident of the United States. He was later found in Tijuana by Mexican police Nov. 5, and surrendered to US authorities at the port of entry in San Ysidro.
According to a search warrant affidavit, neighbors of Gonzalez told police that she had changed her locks to protect herself from Garcia-Puente, whom she had described as abusive. The couple had been having marital difficulties, but no restraining orders were ever filed, police said.
If convicted of both charges, Garcia-Puente could face 26 years to life, Deputy District Attorney Nicole Rooney said.

Mubarak Steps Down After Egyptian Protests

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak hands power over to the military.
After 18 days of protests on the streets of Cairo, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak agreed to relinquish power Feb.11. Mubarak is rumored to have fled the country.
Vice President Omar Suleiman made the announcement on Egyptian television Feb. 11.
Elated Egyptians flooded the streets in celebration, many chanting "God is great!" and setting off fireworks. The Middle-East News Agency reported that many people had fainted as a result of the news. There were also reports of several heart attacks.
"President Hosni Mubarak has decided to step down as President and has assigned the Higher Council of the Armed Forces to run the affairs of the country," said Suleiman.

Following Suleiman's announcement, the Swiss government has also announced that they have frozen all Mubarak's assets, including those of his family.
"By stepping down, President Mubarak responded to the Egyptian people's hunger for change," said President Obama. "…For Egyptians have made it clear that nothing less than genuine democracy will carry the day."
Perhaps inspired by the Jan. uprising in Tunisia, the protests began Jan. 25 with demonstrators demanding that Mubarak step down immediately, ending what many have called a ruthless regime.
Because most of the demonstrators were sharing information via social networks and cell phones, Mubarak had ordered all phone towers and internet connections shut off. But the protests continued.
The streets of Cairo erupted in chaos, with protestors squaring off with both Mubarak's security forces, and with the Egyptian military. According to Human Rights Watch, more than 300 people have lost their lives in the demonstrations since Jan. 25.

Originally, Mubarak had agreed to relinquish power after the country's September elections, but this did not satisfy the people in the streets. In a Feb. 10 speech, Mubarak stated that he was handing power over to Vice President Suleiman. But there was no mention of resignation.
It is unclear what the next step will be for the Egyptian government. According to Egyptian military officials, the army is meeting to decide what to do with Mubarak's parliament. They will also decide when to hold an election.
Egypt does have a constitution, which was implemented in 1971, and it calls for the election of a new leader within 60 days. But it is uncertain if that stipulation will be enforced; Mubarak's decision to hand over the government to the military was obviously unconstitutional.
But despite these details, most Egyptians remain optimistic about their future and the new freedoms they stand to gain with the regime change.

*Information contained in this article was gathered from CNN & The Associated Press

The 2011 State of the Union Address

Obama: "The Idea of America Endures."
President Barack Obama delivered the second State of the Union Address of his presidency January 25 to a divided Congress. The main points of his speech included the economy, education, innovation, and bipartisan cooperation.
Because the mid-term elections gave Republicans control of the House, Obama focused upon the need for bipartisan support. As a symbol of that support, some lawmakers chose to sit with members of the opposing party. The act, an idea of Senator Mark Udall (D-Colo.), was unprecedented; for over 100 years, lawmakers have sat divided at State of the Union Addresses.
“What comes of this moment will be determined not by whether we can sit together tonight, but whether we can work together tomorrow… That’s what the people who sent us here expect of us,” said Obama.
While the idea showed a desire for bipartisanship, a majority of the 535 members of Congress did not participate.
In light of the recent tragedy in Tucson, the President mentioned Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who is recovering from gunshot wounds.
“…we’re also mindful of the empty chair in this chamber, and we pray for the health of our colleague and friend…” he said.
“…Tucson went on to remind us that no matter who we are or where we come from, each of us is a part of something greater,” he added. “Something more consequential than party or political preference.”
Many gun-control advocates later criticized the President for not using the tragedy in his speech to lobby for tougher gun laws. Among the groups that were critical included the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence. A Jan. 31 Tweet from the group read, “Hold President Obama to his promise to speak out about our nation’s insane gun laws!”
As most Americans are concerned with the state of the economy, Obama explained that the stock market has rebounded from what he called “the worst recession that many of us have ever known.” He went on to claim that tax cuts are responsible for helping along businesses with new investments, and that more than a million jobs in the private sector were added last year.
Education was another of Obama’s key points, and he made several references to global competition, naming China and India as some of America’s strongest competitors.
“When a child walks into a classroom, it should be a place of high expectations and high performance. But too many schools don’t meet this test,” he said. “The quality of our math and science education lags behind many other nations.”
Obama used the topic of education to discuss illegal immigration, calling for an end to the deportation of students who are the children of undocumented immigrants, many of whom are deported after they’ve received advanced degrees here. “It makes no sense,” he said
Calling the issue of illegal immigration a difficult one, Obama stated that he wished to work with Democrats and Republicans both to protect the borders, and to address the issue of millions of undocumented workers who are currently living in the United States.
In terms of technological innovation, The President called for Americans to “out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world.” He added that the government needs to assist companies in basic research, which in turn will spur technological advances.

Obama also tackled the subject of the crumbling infrastructure.
“We’ll put more Americans to work repairing crumbling roads and bridges,” he said.
The President proposed to pay for this work by private investment. He also insisted that all infrastructure projects be chosen according to what is best for the economy, not by politicians.
The President touched briefly upon the health care debate, stating that he was more than willing to listen to ideas in how to fix the situation.
‘What I’m not willing to do is to go back to the days when insurance companies could deny someone’s coverage because of a preexisting condition,” he said.
Another hot-button issue is the national deficit. Obama claimed that the overspending began many years before he took office, and proposed a five year freeze on domestic spending. He admitted that many of the cuts were going to be painful.
“I recognize that some in this chamber have already proposed deeper cuts, and I’m willing to eliminate whatever we can honestly afford to do without,” said Obama. “But let’s make sure that we’re not doing it on the backs of our most vulnerable citizens.”
He went on to discuss reducing health care costs, and strengthening Social Security. The President also reinforced his idea that extensions of tax cuts for the wealthy should not be made permanent. He said that it was not meant as a punishment for their success, but a means of promoting America’s success. In addition, he plans to attempt to simplify the individual tax code.
Discussing the situation in Iraq, Obama stated that members of the armed forces have left that country proudly, having done their jobs well. He also claimed that the people of Afghanistan are safer today because of American troops, and that the Afghan government will soon be capable of self-reliance. In July, he plans to begin the process of bringing troops home from the region.
The President is also calling for new alliances with nations like Chile, Brazil, and El Salvador, and will be traveling to those countries in March. He stressed the importance of cooperation with other nations, and also the importance of enforcing tighter sanctions on countries that refuse to abandon a commitment to nuclear weapons.
Obama closed his speech by recognizing business owner Brandon Fisher, whose small company in Berlin, PA designed and built the drilling equipment that would eventually rescue the trapped miners in Chile.
“From the earliest days of our founding,” said Obama, “America has been the story of ordinary people who dare to dream. That’s how we win the future.”