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Pee Wee Offline
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Feb 2009,
4.4-Quake Rattles Area Near Bakersfield


January 31, 2009

RANDSBURG -- A small earthquake struck the desert area of Kern County Saturday, it was reported.

A preliminary report from the U.S. Geological Survey said the 4.4-magnitude quake hit at 1:09 p.m. It was centered eight miles from the sparsely populated town of Randsburg.

There were not immediate reports of any injuries or damage.
02-02-2009 10:49 AM
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Feb 2009, North Korea preparing to fire missile that could reach U.S., official says

North Korea preparing to fire missile that could reach U.S., official says

Kwang-Tae Kim/The Associated Press

Originally published Tuesday, February 3, 2009

SEOUL, South Korea -- North Korea's apparent preparations for a ballistic missile test, reportedly detected by South Korean officials monitoring a train headed to a launch site, appear to be the country's latest attempt to get President Barack Obama's attention.

A South Korean official on Tuesday confirmed the preparations, first reported by Japanese and South Korean media citing sources as saying the missile had the potential to reach the western United States.

"There are signs North Korea is preparing for a missile launch," the intelligence official told The Associated Press. He declined to give further details and spoke on condition of anonymity, citing the sensitivity of the issue.

South Korean intelligence has spotted a train carrying a long, cylinder-shaped object - believed to be a long-range missile - heading to a new launch site on North Korea's west coast, South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported.

North Korea's clandestine missile program has been a key regional concern, along with its nuclear weapons program.

However, North Korea is not believed to have acquired the technology to develop a nuclear warhead light enough to be mounted on a missile, another South Korean intelligence official said. He would not give his name, citing department policy.

The move comes amid heightened tensions on the Korean peninsula, with the North declaring last week it was abandoning pacts designed to prevent hostilities with the South. Relations between the Koreas have been tense since South Korean President Lee Myung-bak took office a year ago with a tough new policy on Pyongyang.

Obama has told Lee that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will visit Seoul in mid-February.

Intelligence indicates the object spotted in North Korea is likely a long-range Taepodong-2 model, Yonhap said. The North could complete preparations for a missile launch within one or two months, the report said, citing unidentified officials.

South Korea's Defense Ministry declined to comment on Yonhap's report.

Any missile launch would be aimed at drawing Washington's attention, as well as pressuring Seoul into softening its policy on Pyongyang, said Park Jung-chul, a North Korea expert at the government-funded Korea Institute for National Unification.

"It's designed to draw U.S. interest at a time when the North's nuclear program is being sidelined by the global financial crisis and the conflict in the Gaza Strip," Park said.

North Korea appears to be "reminding" Obama it has long-rang missiles and nuclear capability, said Paik Hak-soon, an analyst with the private Sejong Institute security think tank.

"North Korea is taking political action," he said.

The Taepodong-2 - considered the North's most advanced rocket - has a range of more than 4,160 miles (6,700 kilometers), putting Alaska in range.

However, the missile being readied may be an upgrade of the Taepodong-2, said Koh Yu-hwan, a North Korea expert at Seoul's Dongguk University. The North reportedly has been trying to develop an advanced version of Taepodong-2 capable of striking the west coast of the mainland United States.

Japanese government officials also cited preparations for the launch of an upgraded Taepodong-2, the Sankei newspaper reported in Tokyo. Officials at Japan's Defense and Foreign ministries could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

In 2006, the North launched a Taepodong-2 missile from its east coast site in Musudan-ni. The rocket plunged into the ocean shortly after liftoff.

Last year, North Korea tested the engine of a long-range missile, indicating progress in developing a new missile, U.S. and South Korean officials said.

Koh said he doubted Pyongyang would fire a missile any time soon because a test could derail its goal of establishing relations with the Obama administration.

"North Korea has nothing to gain" from a missile launch right now - but could fire off a missile if negotiations with Washington do not go well, Koh said.


A look at North Korea's missile arsenal:

- TAEPODONG-2: North Korea's most advanced ballistic missile has a range of more than 4,100 miles, capable of reaching Alaska. Pyongyang is believed to have test-fired the missile in July 2006, but that test was considered a failure. The North reportedly has been trying to develop an advanced version of Taepodong-2 capable of striking the west coast of the United States.

- TAEPODONG-1: North Korea is believed to have test-launched this two-stage, long-range missile in August 1998. The second stage landed in the waters off Japan's eastern coast. The missile has an estimated range of up to 1,550 miles - twice as far as an earlier model, the Nodong missile.

- NODONG: With a range of about 800 miles, Japan is the most likely target of the Nodong missile.

- SCUD: Scuds have a range of up to 310 miles, and would potentially target South Korea. The North is believed to have more than 1,000 Nodong and Scud missiles in its arsenal.

- The Associated Press
03-02-2009 11:54 AM
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Pee Wee Offline
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Wells Fargo NOT Blowing Your Bailout Bucks in Vegas Bankers for the Wynn
04-02-2009 05:41 PM
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RE: Feb 2009,
04-02-2009 05:44 PM
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Feb 2009, Fire Burns Near Ventura County Oil Field
Fire Burns Near Ventura County Oil Field


February 4, 2009

VENTURA -- A wildfire has erupted near an oilfield in Ventura County.

The blaze broke out shortly after 10 a.m. Wednesday and has
spread over three acres northwest of the city of Ventura.

County fire spokesman Bill Nash says firefighters and oil
production personnel are shutting down a leaking gas line and
securing oil facilities in hilly Rincon Bluff.

Nash says the fire, which is bordered by three highways, is
expected to be contained soon.
04-02-2009 05:48 PM
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shirley Offline
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Feb 2009, Cal City sees two sides of riders Off-road trails bring tourism
Cal City sees two sides of riders
Off-road trails bring tourism, obstruction to Kern County

This story appeared in the Antelope Valley Press
Sunday, February 8, 2009.

Valley Press Staff Writer
On the one hand, off-road vehicle recreation is a booming industry that provides economic benefit to nearby communities from visiting riders and provides enthusiasts with a recreational outlet for enjoying the outdoors.

GOING FOR A RIDE - Offroaders head across the desert toward encampments of motor homes and trailers scattered northeast of California City's city center.

On the other hand, off-road vehicles are noisy, can damage the environment when designated trails are not used properly and may draw complaints from residents over issues of trespassing and property damage.

Such is the ongoing debate in communities in the Antelope Valley and across the country as the recreational activity grows while available lands in which to practice it don't.

According to a U.S. Forest Service report on off-highway vehicle use published in February 2008, nearly one in five Americans (19.2%) age 16 and older participated one or more times in OHV recreation within the past year, based on the most recent data collected (2005-07).

Of the total U.S. OHV population, as studied between 1999 and 2007, 11.6% is in California.

The number of OHVs in the United States increased 174% between 1993 and 2003, the most recent data available according to the report.

The Mojave Desert is a popular destination for off-road enthusiasts, with miles of legal trail areas for use.

The desert around California City in eastern Kern County is particularly popular, drawing tens of thousands of riders during the cooler months.

"It's a whole city that shows up," Cal City Mayor Larry Adams said.

Over the long Thanksgiving weekend last fall, an estimated 100,000 riders visited the Cal City area, an influx some seven times greater than the city's full-time population of 14,365.

The area's popularity does not come without detractors.

Residents complain about noisy equipment, inconsiderate riders and off-road vehicles in use where they are not allowed.

The problem of inconsiderate riders - cutting through private property, running loud vehicles on residential streets - comes from a combination of visitors and local riders, Adams said.

As an example, Adams cites three groups of riders in his own neighborhood.

There are the street-legal motorcycle riders, who start up their distinctive engines each morning to go to work. Then there are the very conscientious off-roaders who carefully cross the neighborhood streets to get to the nearby desert trails.

"They don't want to bother anybody," he said.

Finally there are the ones who cause the most complaints, those who disregard the rules, cut across yards and are found doing wheelies and donuts in a vacant lot.

"Those are the ones we need to get a handle on," Adams said. "We don't mind that they ride, we just want them to do it responsibly."

According to the California City Police Department, the city has 33.5 miles of designated OHV trails, primarily to the north and east of the city's population center.

The city has taken pains to attract and accommodate riders. The Police Department operates the Desert Incident Response Team, which provides police officers, medical personnel and volunteers on weekends to handle calls in the off-road areas.

To support the program, which had subsisted on state grants and volunteer efforts, the city last year instituted a permit fee for use of the city trail areas. So far, the permit program has raised in excess of $125,000, according to Police Chief Steve Colerick.

Last fall, the city council approved an OHV trail running from the off-road areas into the city's business center in order to provide access for visitors to some restaurants and other businesses.

Economic benefits

For the businesses at the end of the trail, the access has affected them "tremendously," said Cheryl Gober, owner of Old Cal City Coffee Company and second vice president of the Cal City Economic Development Corp.

"It's a tremendous help to us. It's the difference between making payroll and not making payroll."

Mornings, especially, see numbers of families come into the coffee house for breakfast: smoothies, breakfast rolls, hot chocolate.

"We'll have parties of 30 to 40 people coming in at once," she said.

Afternoons and evenings see equally large crowds at other restaurants in the center such as The X-Spot, a barbecue and sports bar.

On the popular holiday weekends, the visiting riders can double the business of the local establishments, Gober said.

Thanksgiving weekend brought standing-room only crowds to the restaurants, while on New Year's weekend "I thought we would all go crazy, we got so slammed," she said.

Because the trail into town is an easy one, it attracts a lot of families with small children, Gober said.

In addition to patronizing the shops and restaurants in the California City Business Center, the trail's terminus, riders are also walking across the street to the businesses at Aspen Mall, she said.

The trail benefits the city in more ways than the immediate economic boost, Gober said.

Before, the thousands of visitors would pass through town on their way to and from the desert camping areas, without ever interacting with the community itself. Now, visitors have a means of connecting with the city and its residents in ways they hadn't before.

"They're finding the city is a nice community," Gober said. "I've actually sold homes to people who came in on the trail."

Gober acknowledged the complaints of some residents, but emphasized the importance of the economic benefit.

"We've got to survive as a community. We can't let these businesses go under," she said.

"If the town would open its arms to off-roaders, it would be an economic asset that's been absent for so long," she said.

The economic success of the businesses nearest the OHV trail have drawn requests from other businesses in town for trail extensions, City Manager Linda Lunsford said.

In January, the City Council approved a request for the Public Works Department to proceed with preliminary planning efforts to extend the trail further into the city center.

"I generally think it should be expanded," Gober said. "The more we can do to help off-roaders have a good experience, the better it is."

First, however, the existing trail must pass the test of its first season.

When the City Council approved the trail, it was with the stipulation that it would be for a trial period, to be re-evaluated after the riding season ends in June.

It is a small percentage of the off-roaders who disregard the rules and think they can ride wherever and however they want, Adams said.

"The off-road people need to get involved in policing themselves," he said. "We've got to balance the two things. I think we can."

Local law enforcement has been working to ensure riders stay on the designated trail and not stray onto other city streets and through residential neighborhoods.

As with any new rule, there was a period of education when officers issued warnings, Colerick said. That time, however, has elapsed.

One recent afternoon, a single officer issued just under 20 citations in a prime area of concern.

"Some of them were our own locals. They every bit deserved those citations," Colerick said.

The stepped-up enforcement appears to have had the desired effect, he said, as one resident who has long complained about riders in his neighborhood personally came into City Hall to thank Colerick.

"It was a barometer of how it's working," he said. "It's a combination of law enforcement and community and participant cooperation."

Crackdown on illegal riding

Kern County sheriff's deputies recently announced a "zero-tolerance" policy for illegal riding. Officials will no longer offer warnings and will instead cite those found riding in illegal areas and on private property.

"At this point, we think we've warned people enough," said Sgt. Richard Wood of the Tehachapi substation.

The problem has increased lately in areas around Tehachapi and Rosamond, where there are no legal OHV trails.

"We basically had a growing number of complaints from property owners in this region about riders cutting fences, chasing livestock, knocking down signs, just being rude," Wood said.

The problems have led to the formation of a local group of property owners called Off-Road Vehicle Watch Kern County, Wood said, one of the organizations with whom officials met to discuss the complaints.

Sgt. Bobby Daniels of the Rosamond substation described a "roomful of angry property owners" leading to the increased enforcement.

Sheriff's patrols are expected to increase in the problem areas, and officials will conduct periodic special enforcement activities.

"I think people are just getting fed up," Wood said.

While the bulk of the area's off-road activity is centered on the more northern reaches of the Valley, the issue is a regional one.

"We do get complaints and always have about the rural areas" such as Leona Valley, Acton and the southeastern portions of the Valley, said Capt. Bob Denham of the Palmdale Sheriff's Station.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff Department has an off-road team that patrols on weekends, concentrating on areas where there have been complaints of illegal off-road activity, he said.

The problem is a combination of several issues, he said. One is people coming from outside the area, such as the Los Angeles basin, and thinking it is legal to ride in any of the open areas they see from the road.

Others know what they are doing is illegal "and do everything they can to avoid us," Denham said.

The complaints tend to be seasonal, coinciding with the prime riding months, he said.

They tend toward noise complaints, as well as tearing up the desert and sometimes scaring horses.

"Most of the time it's noise off in the distance," Denham said.

Education is the key

Off-road supporters recognize that the actions of a few irresponsible riders make trouble for the many who enjoy the recreational activity legally and considerately.

"We are attempting to educate our community to stay on the designated trail system," California City resident and off-road organizer Wayne Nosala said. "We definitely encourage people not to trespass and not to have conflicts with animals.

"For the most part, we have pretty good compliance. There's a few idiot people who don't want to follow the rules," he said.

Nosala likened the situation to the majority of people on the highway maintaining the speed limit, except for "that one guy who slings by you at 100 mph."

With the peak of the off-road season in full swing right now, crowds of enthusiasts have been streaming into the eastern Kern County desert from Bakersfield and the Los Angeles basin.

"You get 100,000 people out here, it only takes 100 to run amok," Nosala said. "It doesn't take too many to give us a bad name."

Groups such as the nonprofit Friends of Jawbone try to educate riders in the field through signs, handouts and any other outreach they can. For example, the organization recently bought a billboard on Highway 14 just outside Mojave inviting visitors to Jawbone Canyon and Cal City while reminding riders to stay on the trails.

Friends of Jawbone also publishes a map detailing all areas in the east Kern County region where you can and can't ride.

"There's a lot more legal area on that map than there is closed area," Nosala said.

The map also lists the rules and regulations for off-roading in the area, as well as points of interest.

The newly released seventh edition of the map is available through the Jawbone Station at (760) 373-1146.

The maps are $3 each, with the proceeds going toward trail maintenance.

Information is also available through the Friends of Jawbone Web site at

"It's 90% education," Nosala said. "There are lots of new people coming into the sport who really don't know the rules."

While some off-road opposition groups seek to pass additional laws or penalties for illegal riding, Nosala and other believe the existing laws are stringent enough, they just need better enforcement.

This year has been especially busy for the area, Nosala said, owing partly to gas prices declining this fall.

"This particular season has been a real tough one. We've seen people do stuff we just don't see in other years," he said.
08-02-2009 01:03 PM
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Feb 2009, Stray dogs being killed in Baghdad, Strychnine, shotguns used
12-02-2009 11:41 AM
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Feb 2009, Koala bushfire survivor wins hearts
Koala bushfire survivor wins hearts
(01:39) Report

Feb 11 - A bewildered and badly burned koala is being seen as a beacon of hope after emerging from the ashes of Australia's deadliest bushfires.

After days of devastation and the loss of more than 180 lives volunteer firefighter Dave Tree came across the stricken koala, now named Sam, cowering in a burned out section of a forest at Mirboo North, some 150 kilometres (90 miles) southeast of Melbourne.

Almost a million animals are believed to have perished in the fires, including Australia's wild marsupials and people's pets.

Sonia Legg reports.
12-02-2009 05:24 PM
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