Jeff Jardine: Migratory birds might want to duck the Valley this fall

07/28/2014 8:13 PM

07/28/2014 11:14 PM

From the emails, voice mails and, of course, the headlines:

WATERFOWL DANGERS – I received a pair of emails a few minutes apart Friday, and neither bodes well for our fine feathered friends. The first came from a public relations firm warning of the dangers of the drought and specifically the loss of wetlands when birds migrating along the Pacific Flyway arrive in California in the fall.

“In past years, a lack of wetlands has resulted in overcrowding, starvation and outbreaks of deadly diseases like avian botulism and avian cholera. In a year as dry as 2014, it could be even worse,” the email read. “These concerns have united environmental groups, hunters and bird lovers who are raising the alarm and calling for balanced solutions to make sure these birds have enough water when they arrive.”

The second email came from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, offering a waterfowl hunting clinic in Redding in September. “Topics to be covered are decoy placement, blind design, waterfowl calling, duck identification, hunting gear, game care, cooking tips and safety,” it read. “Information will also be provided on hunting state wildlife areas and federal wildlife refuges.”

Either way, it seems to be a lousy time to be a duck or goose.

THROUGH EMMA’S EYE – Emma is a 3-year-old Modesto girl who has neurofibromastosis, which causes tumors to form throughout the body and usually in the brain or spinal cord.

Hers grew around her right eye. She’s had surgery and faces chemotherapy treatments, and with the treatments come travel expenses for her family. Consequently, St. Peter Lutheran Church in Modesto will stage a benefit dinner Sunday, asking for $10 donations for the meal. The event will include a silent auction, cookie sale and piñatas for the children. It is open to the public and begins at 4 p.m. at the church, 3461 Merle Ave., in Modesto. All proceeds go to Emma’s family.

Organizers are asking for help in the form of not only monetary donations, which can be made online at www.gofundme.com/8f91r8, but also auction items including themed baskets and certificates for services. Emma’s mother, Anya Heidenberg, created a blog to update her daughter’s journey. Visit http://throughemmaseye.blogspot.com or the newly created Facebook page titled Through Emma’s Eye. Contact St. Peter Lutheran Church at (209) 551-0563 for more information.

BEEN THERE – Jim Sanders of Modesto read Victor Davis Hanson’s (July 24) opinion piece, headlined “Gen. Patton’s summer of glory in 1944,” with perhaps greater interest than the vast majority of readers.

Hanson wrote about how Patton’s boorish behavior put him on the sidelines for a time before his Third Army sped across France and toward Germany in only 30 days, only to run out of fuel – and what might have happened had Patton maintained his supplies.

Sanders, 89, was a 19-year-old ambulance driver under Patton’s command during the campaign. He said the column brought back vivid memories.

“I was there,” he said.

Sanders later acquired an ambulance just like the one he drove across Europe. He drives it in local parades and displays it the second Saturday of every month at the Commemorative Air Force breakfast at Modesto Airport, on the general aviation side.

HIKING THE ANTE – In April, Jason Poisson announced that he would celebrate Camp Jack Hazard’s 90-year anniversary by hiking 90 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail, from Lake Tahoe to the camp near Sonora Pass. Poisson is executive director of The Jack and Buena Foundation, which funds the camp. His hike drew so much interest from camp alumni that he decided to add a second 90-mile leg, from the camp to Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite National Park. He left Lake Tahoe last week and expects to reach the camp next week. He plans to arrive in Tuolumne Meadows in mid-August.

Camp Jack Hazard provides camping and other outdoor opportunities to young people from the Central Valley. Visit www.jackandbuenafoundation.org for more information.

SEEMS FAMILIAR? A headline in Monday’s Bee read, “Man held after tenants’ trailer burns.”

The story went on to explain how a landlord named George is accused of burning his property near Turlock to the ground while in a dispute with tenants who were still inside when the fire began. The three tenants got out alive.

The circumstances are similar to a 1997 fire in Modesto that claimed a mother and two children, and ultimately sent landlord George Souliotes to prison on murder and arson. That verdict was overturned last year because the fire science used to convict him had been debunked.

A federal judge ordered prosecutors to begin a new trial by July 10, 2013, or set him free. Instead, Souliotes pleaded no contest to three counts of involuntary manslaughter for failing to maintain smoke detectors in his rental home that burned in a deadly 1997 fire.

He was released July 3, 2013, having spent 16 years behind bars, including time spent while awaiting two trials (the first ended in a mistrial) and 13 years in state prison.

Sunday, sheriff’s deputies arrested landlord George Nazar, 51, on suspicion of threatening to boot out the tenants and then torching the trailer. A few minutes later, the place was on fire and firefighters were en route, a sheriff’s spokesman said.

Stay tuned.

EXHAUSTIVE SEARCH – Duane Hess of Manteca read my Sunday column about the numerous convicted killers from the area who have been on death row for decades, with no executions in sight. Judges have stymied the death penalty in California because opponents argue that lethal injection isn’t humane, while the opponents’ opponents contend the condemned should have given that some thought when they inflicted pain, terror and death upon their victims. Hess suggests a tried, true and relatively painless method of execution: carbon monoxide poisoning, which is the nation’s leading cause of poisoning every year.

Burning coal, gasoline, kerosene, oil, propane or wood emits carbon monoxide.

“People die accidentally from inhaling carbon monoxide,” the retired pharmacist said. Indeed, about 170 people perish each year due to the poisoning, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. And the figure doesn’t include those who use it to take their own lives.

“When you breathe in carbon monoxide, the poison replaces the oxygen in your bloodstream,” according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. “Your heart, brain, and body will become starved of oxygen.”

Carbon monoxide makes people sleepy, and many of those killed by it literally die in their sleep, Hess said. And if a condemned inmate received a sleeping aid in advance ...

“No pain,” he said.

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