So Much Positive Potential

Story and photo by Shaunna Boyd  |  2019-10-10

The Fair Oaks Rotary Club sent Bella Vista High School students (left to right) Thida Mommaitri, Celene Aridin, Evan Manley, Tafari LaBrie, Jun Seo, and Amanda Drew to this year’s Rotary Youth Leadership Awards.

FAIR OAKS, CA (MPG) - The Fair Oaks Rotary Club recently sent six Bella Vista High School students to the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards (RYLA) — an intensive leadership retreat where students form strong bonds and discover their true leadership potential.                          

At the club meeting on September 30, Celene Aridin, Evan Manley, Amanda Drew, Tafari LaBrie, Jun Seo, and Thida Mommaitri spoke about their experiences at RYLA. Aridin described RYLA as “a weeklong self-discovery journey [and] leadership camp” where they learned that “you cannot lead others until you can lead yourself.” That’s why a major focus at RYLA is self-reflection and self-growth.

“Self-reflection is a big part of RYLA,” said Mommaitri. Students were asked to reflect on their biggest fears or insecurities as well as their good qualities and hopes for the future. Sharing those thoughts with the group helped students open up and support each other. Mommaitri said, “There was so much positive energy … you felt everyone there was supporting you, just a whole big family. … I can’t describe the feeling in the room because it was so intense and so once in a lifetime. … It was a beautiful moment.”

Creating bonds of friendship and learning to trust each other are important components of RYLA, so many of the activities encouraged students to share their personal experiences and their biggest challenges. Mommaitri said, “It teaches us how to be vulnerable, and that’s a huge part of being a leader as well.”

LaBrie said, “The hard part for me, the scary part for me, was opening up and becoming vulnerable, but I think RYLA taught us that being vulnerable isn’t a weakness, it’s a strength.” LaBrie described Cross the Line, an activity where the group leader asks whether students have dealt with particular experiences, and students cross to the center of the room if their answer is yes. LaBrie said it was a powerful activity because it gave students a chance to share experiences that can be difficult to talk about: “[It] allowed them to express themselves without having to say a word.”

Mommaitri said many people became emotional during Cross the Line. She said it was comforting to see so many other people shared the same experiences: “It makes you feel like you’re not alone because you can reach out and talk to them.”

Physical challenges also facilitated the bonding process and provided opportunities for the students to support each other and demonstrate trust. After climbing a tall tower, students had to jump off and trust that their group would bring them safely to the ground by keeping the harness rope secure. “It’s really the group that gets you through everything,” said Aridin.

Although Manley was not afraid of heights, he knew the tower challenge was intimidating for others in his group, “so it felt like a win for me when they conquered that fear of theirs and jumped off.”

With so many different challenges and activities at the camp, Manley said, “It shows you all the different stages of being a leader. Sometimes you’ll step up and be the one leading the group. Sometimes you’ll be the one watching, letting other people take the lead.” Manley thanked all the Rotary members who volunteered as counselors at the camp and thanked the club for sponsoring them to attend. “It was such a great experience for all of us,” he said.

Mommaitri agreed, “No one wanted to leave. … Everyone just wanted to stay there because the environment we create there was so special. … It was such an amazing opportunity.”

Rotary member Jim Erickson has been volunteering as a RYLA counselor for three years now and said that the counselors also form strong bonds with the students during the camp: “The counselors get almost as much or more out of it than the kids do.” He described it as “a great emotional week for the kids to learn about themselves and about others. … It’s a great experience for them.


Fire Victims Can File Without an Attorney!!!!

SANTA ROSA, CA (MPG) - A grassroots campaign of fire victims held a press conference on the two-year anniversary of the devastating Tubbs fire to bring awareness to fellow fire victims about the rapidly approaching deadline to file claims against PG&E and to share vital information on this looming deadline -- spoken fire victim to fire victim in a language they all understand. Over half of fire victims have not yet filed claims. This group wants to let those thousands know they could be well compensated by PG&E, and they can file a claim for free and without  an attorney by going to Facing billions of dollars in liability claims, PG&E filed for protective bankruptcy, effectively cutting in half the time fire victims would normally have to make claims against the utilities behemoth. The deadline for filing claims is now October 21, 2019 by 5pm. The claims process is simpler than many believe. Claims are not limited to property damage and include lost income, loss of community, and emotional distress. Victims do not need to hire lawyers or know the monetary value of their claim before filing. This rapidly approaching deadline has fire victims scrambling to file claims, and many more are unaware that they are about to lose their right to file forever. They need to know about

October 21, 2019 is the deadline for submitting claims against PG&E for losses relating to the 2017 North Bay Fires and the 2018 Camp Fire. It is vitally important that victims file their claims by this date, even if they do not have a lawyer or don’t know the exact amount of their claim. These details can be worked out after filing. Filing is free and requires very little effort. Detailed instructions on how to file out the forms is available at To date, too many have not started the claims process. Many are holding back because of misinformation. This low participation rate could affect all fire victims, including those who file claims. Numbers count in the bankruptcy process. Eventually, a bankruptcy plan will be hammered out by the different creditor groups or may be subject to a vote of creditors. Wildfire victims could be the largest creditor group and largest voting bloc, but only if more people to submit claims. Claims are not limited to those who lost their homes. “If you ran out the door with virtually nothing, drove through smoke and flames, were shut out of your home for weeks only to return a burned-out wasteland, you have a claim for emotional distress. Chances are you had smoke damage, lost trees and landscaping, and property damage that was not covered fully by insurance. If you were a renter or lived in a mobile home, you lost personal property and were almost certainly underinsured. You have a claim,” said Helen Sedwick, a Glen Ellen area fire victim. 

Anyone affected by the many fires that tore through California should file a claim. These relevant fires are: Atlas, Butte, Camp, Cascade, Cherokee, Highway 37, Honey, La Porte, Lobo, Mayacama, McCourtney, Nuns (which includes Adobe, Norrbom, Patrick, Pressley, and Oakmont fires), Pocket, Point, Potter/Redwood, Sullivan, Sulphur, and Tubbs fires. The forms must be filed no later than the “Bar Date” of October 21, 2019. The Proof of Claim form is simple, takes only 15 minutes to complete. Detailed information on how to fill out and file the form can be found at   Claimants do not need to include documentation or other proof now; that will happen later.  They may fill in the form electronically, mail it in, or send it via overnight courier (e.g.; FedEx, Priority Mail).  Fire survivors have nothing to lose and a lot to gain by filing a Proof of Claim form in the PG&E bankruptcy.

About The Fire Victims Group: is a group of five volunteers who lost their homes in Santa Rosa and Glen Ellen. They are dedicated to helping their neighbors and communities throughout Northern California receive a fair recovery from PG&E for the devastating losses of the 2015, 2017, and 2018 fires. James Finn is a cardiac anesthesiologist and critical care physician.  Deciding to retire after barely escaping with his life and seeing almost everything he owned obliterated by the Tubbs fire, he now dedicates his time to advocacy for responsible utility management and fire safety, as well as helping fellow fire survivors navigate the intricacies of insurance and understand the truth about financial recovery from PG&E. Howard Klepper retired after his home and shop, along with 30 guitars he built by hand, were destroyed by the Nuns fire.  He wants all those who were similarly injured by this greedy and reckless company to maximize their financial recovery. After losing her home in the Nuns Fire, Helen Sedwick is dedicated to help inform and encourage fire survivors. Volunteering countless hours, she is holding community informational meetings for all fire survivors while helping her Bennett Ridge neighborhood obtain grants to reduce fire risks. Robert and Linda Upton purchased their Glen Ellen property to keep their horses at home. They are horrified at the misinformation about making claims from PG&E. They want to be sure everyone has the real facts about the process and that friends and neighbors do not regret missing the deadline when PG&E writes large checks next year.

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SACRAMENTO, CA (MPG) - Shawn Yadon, CEO of the California Trucking Association (CTA), issued the following statement in response to the California State Transportation Agency’s statement on Governor Gavin Newsom’s executive order which proposes to realign billions of dollars from critical road construction and repair to instead fund unspecified climate change projects. In 2017, the California Trucking Association (CTA) supported Senate Bill 1– and subsequent ballot measures – in order to create a reliable source of revenue to fix California’s crumbling infrastructure.

“Making the decision to support fuel taxes was not without its challenges. Promises were made to the motoring public to fix California’s deteriorating roads and bridges. These promises must be kept.

“If the effect of the executive order is to divert funds from road and bridge repairs, these projects will once again be placed on the back burner, leading to increased congestion and unsafe roads for all motorists.

“CTA and its members will continue to work with the administration and the legislature to strike a workable solution that represents the clear will of California’s voting public and trucking industry.”

Since 1934, the California Trucking Association has been serving the commercial motor carrier industry in California and the companies that provide products and services to the trucking industry. A critical and vital component of California’s economy, nearly 80 percent of California communities depend solely on trucks to deliver their goods. Our carrier membership ranges from individual owner-operators, to small for-hire fleets, to the largest national and international carriers. Allied members of the California Trucking Association range from businesses involved with truck and trailer sales, parts and service, insurance, legal services and all other businesses that support the trucking industry.

The California Trucking Association promotes leadership in the California motor carrier industry, advocates sound transportation policies to all levels of government, and works to maintain a safe, environmentally responsible and efficient California transportation goods movement system. 

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SMUD Helps Sponsor the Hubble Space Telescope Exhibit

By Lindsay VanLaningham, SMUD  |  2019-10-17

The tunnel leading into the Hubble telescope exhibit. Photo courtesy of SMUD/Aerospace Museum of California

SACRAMENTO REGION, CA (MPG) - Among a crowd of Sacramento leaders, SMUD announced a partnership with the Aerospace Museum of California and a $50,000 sponsorship to host NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope Exhibit for local students to experience a once-in-a-lifetime STEM education experience.

The announcement came as dozens of area leaders, residents and children got a sneak peek of the exhibit as it opened its doors to the public for Fall 2019.

“This is an incredible opportunity to expose students to science, technology, engineering and math in a new and innovative way,” said SMUD CEO and General Manager Arlen Orchard. “Our goal is to help the museum inspire and expose students from all over the region to the expansive possibilities in STEM education and STEM-related careers, so they truly can reach for the stars.”

The exhibit features a scaled replica of NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and includes hands-on, interactive activities that allow students to explore the technology used in space to gaze at distant stars, planets and galaxies. They will also be able to learn about the new James Webb Space Telescope and how it will contribute to our knowledge into the future.

The exhibit will be on display through December 2019 and is expected to draw thousands of visitors.

In partnership with the museum, SMUD’s goal is to reach 15,000 students with this STEM education experience, particularly those in historically underserved communities. A large portion of the grant provides transportation funding for Title 1 schools, as well as free participation in the program; teacher membership; and continuing education resources.

“We’re excited to host this amazing exhibit in California for the very first time,” stated Executive Director for the Aerospace Museum Tom Jones. “The Hubble Space Telescope exhibit is a perfect complement to our other artifacts that can help tell the story of aerospace from the beginning to well into the future.”

Funding for this project comes from SMUD’s Sustainable Communities Initiative that seeks to leverage resources for community partners in order to provide increased access to employment, healthcare, STEM education and more. This is one of many projects that will enhance the Sacramento community

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CITRUS HEIGHTS, CA (MPG) - Sunrise Mall is a vital element of Citrus Heights’ economy and community, so in July the Citrus Heights City Council approved a General Plan Amendment that requires the development of a Specific Plan to ensure a comprehensive and cohesive planning effort in the redevelopment of Sunrise Mall.

The language in the General Plan Amendment specifies that the goal is to “transform the Sunrise Mall area into a premier regional destination and a flourishing center of community life where residents and visitors shop, work, live, and play.” In order to reach that goal, Economic Development Manager Meghan Huber said the creation of the Specific Plan will bring together the “owners, stakeholders, and community to envision a viable and successful future at Sunrise Mall.”

At the October 10 City Council meeting, Huber explained that the process will have four parts: market analysis, community outreach, Specific Plan execution, and the environmental impact report (EIR). “It’s an important process,” said Huber, “and it’s important to take it on with the right partner.” Huber said staff reviewed the qualifications of six consultant teams and identified Gensler as the best qualified to assist the City.

An international architecture and planning firm, Gensler is experienced in master planning and turning malls into lifestyle centers. Huber said Gensler would serve as the project manager and provide the lead planning and visioning effort. Gensler also has a robust team of subconsultants including MXD Development Strategists, which will provide market analysis and economic feasibility; De Novo Planning Group, which will be responsible for preparing the EIR; Fehr and Peers, which will handle traffic engineering and transportation concerns; and Mark Thomas, which will oversee the civil engineering. Gensler also agreed to the City’s aggressive timeline of completing the Specific Plan within 18-24 months.

Gensler’s Project Manager Nate Cherry addressed the Council, sharing his excitement about the process: “You’ve got to have a big idea that people can understand and get behind.” Cherry said the Specific Plan will make Citrus Heights competitive with other cities in the region by creating a retail, entertainment, wellness, and lifestyle space. Cherry said onsite affordable housing would “provide villagers where you’re hoping to create a village.” And with climate change presenting significant challenges, Cherry said there are opportunities for “making streets greener, integrating green spaces, [and creating] more sustainable land-use patterns.”

The budget for the contract with Gensler is $1,208,885, and funding for the project will come from various sources: $310,000 from the SB2 Planning Grant, $440,000 from the Sewer Credit Program, $350,000 from Development Fund 330, and $108,885 from the General Fund 2021/2022 budget — with staff looking for alternative funding sources over the next two years.

During public comment, one local resident spoke in opposition to adopting the Gensler contract. He felt that the contract should have been made available for at least a month so the public had time to review it and provide written comments. He expressed concern that residents won’t be informed about opportunities to participate in the process: “Too many people in our community only find out about things afterwards. And we have an obligation to make sure everyone knows in advance when there will be opportunities for public input.”

Another resident spoke in support of the contract, praising Gensler’s vision for the Sunrise Mall Specific Plan. “I want to volunteer. I want to be on that committee,” he said.

Vice Mayor Jeff Slowey said that over the last 10 years the mall has had many different owners with many different ideas, “but none have come to fruition. At this point, we have to step in, engage the community, spend some money, come up with our own plan. … I’m 100% ready to move forward.”

Councilmember Bret Daniels said, “This is a very big deal. … We don’t exist without Sunrise Mall. There’s no Citrus Heights City today without Sunrise Mall, and so the future of Citrus Heights could also pin … on what happens at Sunrise Mall.” Daniels also expressed hope that the Pop-Up Stadium idea could be revived.

Councilmember Steve Miller explained that “the ownership group is the one that’s going to have to buy into this and put the money up. It’s their money at risk. But we want to create an environment, an incubator, that will help them realize the biggest potential out of this property. … I’m looking forward to this process.”

Mayor Jeannie Bruins said, “I think we have to have vision. … I think this is an exciting opportunity. We have 100 acres here right in the middle of our business district to create something that otherwise we would not have had the opportunity to do.”

Mayor Bruins called for a vote on the resolution, and the Council unanimously approved the contract to utilize Gensler’s professional services in the creation of the Sunrise Mall Specific Plan.


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Adult Arrested for Sexual Assault on a Child

By David Gutierrez, Citrus Heights Police Department  |  2019-10-17

Jason Earl Hook. Photo courtesy CHPD

CITRUS HEIGHTS, CA (MPG) - The Citrus Heights Police Department’s Investigative Services Division is actively investigating a series of child molestation cases involving multiple victims.  The department is requesting help from the public with this investigation. 

On 09/08/19, detectives launched an investigation into a child molestation.  The investigation resulted in the identification of a 43 year old resident of Citrus Heights, Jason Earl Hook, as the suspect.  The investigation also revealed several other victims.  Some of the incidents occurred as far back as 2008, and all identified cases occurred while Hook lived in Citrus Heights.

All of Hook’s victims were known to him, would visit him at his residence, and some were friends of family members.  Hook’s victims have been identified as both males and females between the ages of 8 and 17 years old.

On 9/27/19, Citrus Heights Police Detectives arrested Hook for 25 counts of child molest and he is currently in custody at the Sacramento County Jail awaiting trial.  Hook has been charged with:

Four counts of 288 (C)(1) - Lewd act on a child victim 14 or 15 years of age and defendant is 10 years older than the victim;

Six counts of 288 (A) -Lewd or lascivious acts with a child under 14 years old;

Seven counts of 288.7 (B) - Oral sex act with a child 10 years old or younger;

Eight counts of 288 (B)(1) - Lewd act on a child under 14 using force

Although several of Hook’s victims have been identified, it is suspected others are still unknown.  While residing in Citrus Heights, Hook lived on Birdcage Street.  Hook also taught light saber classes for both Sunrise Community Church and San Juan High School’s after school club.  

He is described as a white male, 5’9”, 275lbs, 43 years old, has brown hair and brown eyes.

Citrus Heights Police Detectives are seeking any information regarding Hook or any additional victims.  Any person with information regarding Hook, or any victim that has yet to come forward is encouraged to contact the Citrus Heights Police Department, Investigative Services Division at (916) 727-5500 or contact our dedicated crime tip line at (916) 727-5524.

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“Meet & Greet” for the US-Ukraine Foundation Friends of Ukraine Network in Washington DC

US-Ukraine Foundation Press Release  |  2019-10-17

“Meet & Greet” Robert A. McConnell, Coordinator of External Relations for the US-Ukraine Foundation Friends of Ukraine Network located in Washington DC. Photo courtesy USUF

CITRUS HEIGHTS, CA (MPG) - Robert A. McConnell, co-founder of the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation and Coordinator of External Relations for the Foundation’s Friends of Ukraine Network will visit the Greater Sacramento UA community to share information on the Foundation’s many initiatives to create and sustain an exchange of information between the United States and Ukraine in order to build peace and prosperity. The U.S. Ukraine Foundation is a U.S. 501(c) (3) nonprofit, nongovernmental organization established in 1991 to support democracy, a free market and human rights for Ukraine. More information on USUF is available at

Robert McConnell is Principal of R.A. McConnell and Associates.  Previously, he has served as head of the Government Advocacy Practice at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, Vice President – Washington for CBS, Inc., and Assistant Attorney General in the Department of Justice during the Reagan Administration.

The event will take place on Saturday, October 19, 2019 from 12 noon to 1:00 pm at the Ukrainian Federal Credit Union located at 6029 San Juan Ave. Citrus Heights, CA 95610.

For more information contact:

Mikhail Tkach, Branch Manager at Ukrainian Federal Credit Union 916-721-1188

Stepan Skots, President of Ukrainian American House 916-410-1110

John Kun, Chief Operating Officer at US-Ukraine Foundation 202-789-4467

Tamara Denysenko, Board member at Ukrainian Federal Credit Union 585-703-7828

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Reporting from the World Summit of Nobel Peace Prize Laureates

By David Dickstein  |  2019-10-17

Nobel Peace Prize laureate and former Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos makes opening remarks in the Yucatan. Photo by David Dickstein

MERIDA, MEXICO (MPG) – They held a World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates last month in Mexico and a softball game broke out.

If the above phrasing sounds familiar, Rodney Dangerfield liked to joke, “I went to a fight the other night, and a hockey game broke out.” After attending what was billed as a forum to “address global issues with a view to encourage and support peace and human well-being in the world,” only to walk away disappointed, I knew that by borrowing from the late comedian, I’d have the perfect, albeit sad introductory line.

The batters of my metaphorical softball game were the Nobel Peace Prize winners whose three days in the Yucatan Peninsula included sit-downs with the press. The credentialed journalists were the pitchers, and by throwing mainly softball questions, the mostly Mexico-based contingent squandered the rare opportunity of asking tough and/or insightful questions to the distinguished do-gooders. In all, 30 Nobel Peace Prize laureates attended the event, representing themselves or winning organizations. The softball field, just to close out the sports-related figure of speech, was next to the working press room inside a world-class convention center in Merida, capital of the state of Yucatan.

Poor organization and logistics made covering the event a living hell, but of greater importance to you readers is how the Nobel Peace Prize winners responded to the questions that didn’t kowtow to the people of honor, few and far between as they were. Most journalists asked pandering softball questions like this one to Dr. Bernice King, the youngest child of revered Dr. Martin Luther King: “As a privileged white woman who can’t relate to the struggles of people of color, what can those like me do to help?” Knowing the organization, that eye-roller will probably get that woman a permanent invitation to all future World Summits. That would be a travesty with the white journalist already feeling so privileged and all.

Then a real question from the press was asked. My first of two called on MLK’s daughter to substantiate claims she made earlier at the World Summit about the leader of the Free World: “You have repeatedly called President Trump a racist. Can you give one example of something racist he has said or done?” King fumbled with her response, often looking to her handlers for help.

“Um, I mean there’s so much stuff that, um, that one can say,” King said. “He’s talked about sh*thole nations, the way he’s spoken about Mexicans – there’s a host of things I see that come across as if he does not like certain groups of people.”

So far I hadn’t heard a specific example of Trump being a racist, and as King continued with her response, she seemed to go further astray.

“Anyone who does not agree with him or stands up to him almost becomes enemy No. 1,” she said. “He just attacks, and it’s not always driven by race – it’s driven by Trump. That’s the bottom line. He’s a different kind of person than what you’d call your typical racist because … look at the way he spoke about Senator [John] McCain. Who does that? The army vet, the reporter, it’s on and on and on and on.”

King is a delightful woman who I had the pleasure of sitting next to on the plane to Mexico City. And what an honor and thrill it was when my offer of my blanket was warmly accepted when she felt a chill halfway there. All that aside, I would be remiss as a journalist if I didn’t say that my question didn’t continue to trip King up. She seemed to ramble and contradict herself.

“Out of his mouth I have heard him denounce white supremacy. I’ve heard that,” King said. “Whether or not he denounces it in a way that pushes away those who support him is another discussion. Those are the examples I have. It’s hard for somebody to believe he’s not racist. I can say that just because …. There are some things he’s done policy-wise that’s helped to uplift some of the black community. The First Step Act in terms of prison reform …. Racism is prejudice plus power. Racism is when you think an entire group of people is inferior to you or your peer group. I don’t know if anyone has examined that. Does President Trump feel that all blacks or Mexicans are inferior as a group? That’s a question we have to ask and determine.”

My second question for King, a quasi-lighthearted one, made the civil rights activist laugh out loud, which, all professionalism aside, was pretty cool. I asked, “When the family sits down for Christmas dinner, what’s the conversation like with Cousin Alveda at the table?” Alveda Celeste King, for those who don’t watch Fox News, is a civil rights activist, former Georgia congresswoman and a vocal supporter of the President. The 68-year-old niece of MLK has defended Trump on many occasions, including on national TV when she said, “Racism is just a word that’s being bandied and thrown about and thrown at the president, in my opinion, unjustly. President Trump is not a racist.”

After a good laugh over a question her PR person said had never been asked before, Bernice King gave a thorough, thoughtful response:

“Because our family has such strong unconditional love for each other we do not let those kinds of things tear us apart as a family,” she said. “We have strong, vehement disagreements about how President Trump conducts himself. She is a Christian and she is also a minister, but at the end of the day she does what she does. I say what I need to say, she says what she needs to say.”

King then spoke much like the minister she is and her father was: “One thing I’ve learned about different opinions and ideologies is if you sit down and listen long enough and shut down your right to be right and allow yourself to hear what a person is saying, you might discover a bit of truth. That’s how my father developed his philosophy of non-violence. He was able to read and study a lot of different philosophers and theologians. Even those he didn’t agree with. So, if we’re going to create a more humane world, we have to learn to do that. Alveda has taught me because she’s so strong in what she feels and believes. We had a discussion over Labor Day weekend, and I sat and really listened to some of the things she was saying, and as I thought about them holistically there was some truth in that, and I had to acknowledge that. We have a tendency with people we disagree with to disagree with them fully. If there’s something specifically that I don’t like that is a part of your ideological system I shut you all the way down. I discount that there may be something in your makeup that is very beautiful, very powerful and has truth to it. But we don’t allow ourselves to open up to people unless they think mostly like us. And if we continue to do that then we’re going to have friction and tension and conflict.”

Attending his ninth World Summit was Frederik Willem de Klerk, former president of South Africa and a 1993 Nobel Peace Prize winner with Nelson Mandela for their role in ending Apartheid. The political prisoner he freed and would later succeed him as the country’s leader. De Klerk’s response to a question on migration was refreshing in that he was the only laureate to say that nations cannot open the floodgates for immigrants.

“Migration is not only a problem between the USA and Mexico,” de Klerk said. “Look at the hundreds of thousands of people crossing Africa into Europe to escape from dangerous situations, from hunger and joblessness, and the problems the European countries have in assimilating these migrants. Migration is a problem around the world and it’s going to become a bigger problem. In the case of Europe, the population is shrinking, and just to keep the economy at the level where it is they will have to take in migrants. But I have sympathy for any country that says, ‘We can’t take anybody who wants to come into the country. We have to have an immigration policy that also puts importance on the interests of our country. We need migrants with specific skills.’ So, immigration policy should strike a balance between humaneness and protecting the interests of the country.”

Participating in her sixth World Summit was Rigoberta Menchu Tum, a Guatemalan Indian who was awarded the Peace Prize in 1992 for her work championing rights of indigenous peoples and reconciliation between ethnic groups. The morning of her so-called press conference, during which she and her guest panelists gobbled up all but the last few minutes for questions, Tum was on a different panel on migration. She believes that no one flees their country unless they’re desperate, and their sole objective is to live where they are safe. Assuming that’s true, I asked Tum why the caravans originating in Honduras and El Salvador make the long and dangerous journey to the United States instead of seeking asylum in the first safe country they reach, which so happens to be her homeland of Guatemala? “How open are the arms of your country, or is your nation happy when the refugees continue on to Mexico to ultimately be handled by the USA?” Her response, through an interpreter, was so off the mark, I may as well have asked if she likes meatloaf on Tuesdays. Even her panelist friend told me she completely dodged the question. Clearly, Tum is riding the Peace Prize train without practicing what she preaches. Hypocrisy reared its ugly head several times during her abbreviated Q&A; at the start she urged the media to ask tough questions.

A fixture at these near-annual events is Lech Walesa, who won the Peace Prize in 1983 for founding Poland's anti-communist Solidarity movement that played a key role in the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe. My question for the former Polish president, a pro-capitalist, was whether he would have been more successful developing his country as “The America of the East,” as he declared in 1991, with a businessman in the White House, Trump, than an actor-turned-politician, Ronald Reagan. Walesa said that it probably wouldn’t have mattered who was the U.S. president at the time because the collapse of communism throughout Europe happened faster than anyone predicted.

“My strategy was Poland first, but then East and West Germany reunified and there was a snowball effect in other countries of the [Eastern] Bloc,” Walesa said. “The speed actually surprised President Reagan and myself, too.”

Asked about Trump’s chances to win a Peace Prize this December, the Polish activist danced the polka around the question, responding through an interpreter that while the world leader diagnoses situations in a correct way, the solutions he applies are wrong.

“He wants to move in a different direction than the whole world is heading,” said the man who won his Nobel Prize by doing just that. Walesa used Trump’s policy on protecting the nation’s southern border with Mexico as an example. “He says there are too many people coming into the United States. There should not be a wall, but money invested in Mexico to create jobs. And once this is done, this will level the disproportion between the countries.”

Trump’s mistake, Walesa said, is “forgetting that people behave like interconnected containers of water.” He elaborated. “There is a great disproportion in development in the world. It’s not Mexico’s fault of this disproportion. It’s the United States’ fault. We need to move the water from one container to another. We need to level the disproportion.”

Walesa didn’t sound like he’d put money on Trump winning a Peace Prize this year or any year. Despite efforts to keep the peace, namely making historic inroads with North Korea and in the Middle East, all without war breaking out, Trump seems to be on the same prizeless path as some past Republican presidents. Reagan engineered the end of the Cold War, and Richard Nixon, by normalizing relations between the U.S. and China, forced the Soviet Union to yield to pressure for detente with the United States.

The last GOP president to win the Peace Prize was Theodore Roosevelt in 1906. Since then, Woodrow Wilson, Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama have been so honored in addition to Vice President Al Gore – all Democrats. This from an organization that as late as last month’s World Summit of Nobel Peace Prize Laureates said the selection committee has no political bias.

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SACRAMENTO REGION, CA (MPG) - The California Capital Airshow (CCA), presented by Sacramento County in partnership with the City of Rancho Cordova, made good on its promise to bring a thrilling fourteenth annual airshow to the Sacramento region. The October 5 and 6 event drew its largest crowds to date with headliner U.S. Navy Blue Angels plus hours of entertainment on the ground and in the air. Family-friendly ticket pricing offered expanded opportunities for children to attend the show for free in order to experience its aviation and STEM activities first hand.

CCA’s free Friday night kick-off event, Blues & Brews, offered fans a meet and greet with their favorite performers. Proceeds from the first-ever brew fest, included as an optional part of the evening, will benefit the airshow’s scholarship program.

The action ramped up Saturday and Sunday with an extensive roster of world-class civilian and military acts. Team Oracle, the Aftershock Jet Fire Truck, Vicky Benzing Barnstorming and the F-16 Viper Demonstration Team kept audiences on the edge of their seats with heart-pounding speed and aerobatics, while a moving tribute featuring several warbird aircraft honored the 75thanniversary of D-Day, and collaborations with the California Air National Guard as well as Travis and Beale Air Force bases honored the every-day heroes serving in the United States military within the Sacramento region. The U.S. Navy Blue Angels closed out the show each day with their dynamic formation flying demonstration known for its unparalleled precision. 

Tens of thousands of spectators enjoyed over a hundred acres of ramp space that included miles of static aircraft displays and interactive STEM experiences. The show offered free admission for up to six children under the age of 15 with the purchase of one Adult General Admission ticket. In addition, over 4,000 tickets were donated to schools, youth organizations and veteran’s groups. A portion of sales will go toward supporting CCA’s scholarship programs and educational youth events as well as revenue-share programs for other non-profit organizations volunteering with the show. 

“We are so grateful to our volunteers and community partners who help us make this show happen every year” said Darcy Brewer, executive director, CCA. “While it’s a thrill to see the Blue Angels and other performers fly over two days, the greatest thrill for us is knowing that we have inspired young people to dream big and explore the world of aviation and STEM.” 

Planning is already underway for the 2020 California Capital Airshow. For more information about the airshow go to


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Plant-Based Movement Takes to the High Seas

By David Dickstein  |  2019-10-15

Docked in Skagway, Alaska, is Seven Seas Mariner, one of the Regent Seven Seas Cruises ships that sails out of California. Photo by David Dickstein

Are Falafel Power Bowls the New Surf & Turf for Cruisers?

SACRAMENTO REGION, CA (MPG) - As further proof that the migration to plant-based products is not a fad, but a bona fide trend, more and more cruise lines are keeping pace with current consumer habits by welcoming aboard the gastronomic movement to their fleets.

Regent Seven Seas Cruises is the next to expand its cuisine with plant-based dishes. Later this fall, the luxury-class line is giving passengers more than 200 new and delicious reasons to feel less guilty about bypassing the fitness center and jogging track while on vacation. This meat-eater certainly will use that excuse thanks to an exclusive advance tasting of some of the plant-based dishes awaiting their debut.

Making notable and nutritious changes to its fare from bow to stern, Regent’s menu makeover appears to be on par with efforts of its direct luxury-class competitor, Oceania Cruises, and more aggressive than earlier plant-based pushes made by more modest cruise lines including Disney, Royal Caribbean and Celebrity.

Soon on Regent ships, including the Seven Seas Mariner and Navigator that sail out of the Port of Los Angeles, it will be out with a separate vegan menu and in with scores of gourmet plant-based dishes integrated into the daily menus of the main dining room and beyond. The new items, which include falafel power bowls and the already mainstreamed-on-land Impossible cheeseburger, will be identified by a small leaf icon. The designation will be an add-on to bills of fare that already have a symbol for lacto-ovo vegetarian foods, meaning they may contain milk and eggs. Based on Regent’s project timeline, the plant-based dishes will be rolled out fleet-wide by World Vegan Day on Nov. 1.

Captaining the culinary creations is Regent Food and Beverage Vice President Bernhard Klotz, who noted that plant-based cuisine appeals to a broad audience of luxury travelers. “This is an emerging, modern specialty cuisine that allows our guests to enjoy more flavorful foods that are in harmony with their current tastes,” he said.

The project team also includes world-renowned chef and author Christophe Berg, a 15-year vegan who recently served in a similar consulting capacity for Oceania, which rolled out 200 plant-based dishes across its entire fleet in August. The new options have been described by Bob Binder, Oceania president and CEO, as “flavorful, colorful, bold and creative.”

Executing a similar vegetarian-rooted vision will be the galley crews of Regent’s four-vessel fleet – five when the Seven Seas Splendor arrives in February. The effected chefs and cooks will be trained a few days before each ship becomes a floating ambassador of the growing plant-based movement.

While similarities exist between plant-based and vegan diets, both of which are generally based on personal health, animal welfare and environmental concerns, the main difference between the two is followers of the former are free to eat dairy, as well as poultry, red meat, fish and animal bi-products. Vegans, vehemently, aren’t.

Excited to climb aboard the plant-based train – check that, ship – is Dino Schwager, a nine-year executive chef with Regent Seven Seas Cruises.

“Plant-based is a movement, like a political movement,” said Schwager during a recent seven-day Alaskan cruise aboard the Seven Seas Mariner. “This is a new cuisine, a completely new niche.”

Exclusive, Almost-to-Spec Tasting

Although the fleet’s galleys were still months away from being fully stocked for the new recipes, the affable German chef personally made this travel writer a three-course meal as close to being “leaf-worthy” as possible. Joining us for the exclusive, almost-to-spec chef’s tasting menu was a third avid non-vegetarian at the table, Vladimir Cavic, the ship’s food and beverage director. Leave it to the journalist to be gauche by asking that we enjoy the trio of dishes out of turn.

First up was the gorgeously plated “Warm White and Green Asparagus,” currently served every 14th day in the Mariner’s exquisite Compass Rose and the line’s other main dining rooms. Accompanied by portabella and oyster mushrooms, Parisienne potatoes and sherry vinegar dressing, the dish appears plant-based. Looks, however, are deceiving. During the making of this dish, butter was used when boiling the asparagus, sautéing the fungi and soaking the spuds. The new menu calls for the butter to be replaced with a plant-based margarine. The main dish already tastes fresh and light, especially with a dressing too delicate to dare overpower the perfectly prepared produce. Exchanging butter for plant-based margarine, “a simple change,” according to Chef, will not only appeal to contemporary palates and lifestyles, but also “celebrate the vegetables.”

“The plant-based margarine we’re getting contains less water than the conventional kind and, thus, brings out more of the vegetables’ natural flavors,” he said.

Purposely using as little butter as possible to replicate how the dish will taste come fall, the kitchen staff proved that the non-plant-based fat isn’t required for this plate to appeal to us avid omnivores. Light, yet satisfying – on par with similar fare from Regent, which means well above average among all cruise categories. When prepared to spec, diners unaccustomed to go vegetarian with their main entrees may get an extra boost from knowing how much healthier each delicious bite is.

Next came the “Assorted Greens & Shaved Fennel,” a lovely salad course option that blends California and Hawaiian cuisines with orange segments and roasted macadamia nut dressing.

“What on the plate isn’t plant-based?” Schwager was asked. Chef replied with a devilish smile, “Nothing! This can be served exactly as-is.” Cheater.

Making up for his attempt at sandbagging, the third course, the “Caramelized Apple Tart,” is a dish that will require longer preparation by the dedicated dessert crew.

“The apple stays the same, caramelized in the oven with the vinegar,” Schwager said as it was love at first bite for this fan of sweet, savory, sour and acidic. “The goat cheese will be replaced by a plant-based cheese, made with cashew. Like switching out butter with plant-based margarine, that’s a simple step. It’s the changes to the puff pastry that’s not easy.”

Plant-based pastry dough, at least on Regent Seven Seas ships, will be put in the freezer to set, then rolled thinly before cutting.

“This has to be done fast,” Chef said. “The dough is so sensitive, if you make it and don’t roll it, it doesn’t work. And you have to roll it between two baking sheets.”

The rules of baking science for a ship’s plant-based puff pastry are much more complex than that, but what most cruisers want to know is how it tastes. Based on the best the executive chef and his galley’s dessert station could do in advance of receiving proper training and plant-based ingredients, we can safely state that passengers are in for a real – and healthier – treat.

Net-net, Regent Seven Seas Cruises adding so many plant-based dishes to its regular menus is a big win for passengers on diets eliminating or limiting animals and animal bi-products. The corporate move also will appeal to meat eaters considering healthier choices from a luxury cruise line known for serving top-notch cuisine.

Interesting to note, Regent estimates that a typical passenger eats about 30 percent more during the first two or three days of a cruise, then goes back on a normal level while simultaneously seeking healthier options. By the middle of a 15-day cruise, heck, even a Texas rancher might pass on a standing order of black angus breakfast sirloin steak with crispy bacon in favor of chia cashew yogurt with carrot-hazelnut granola.

If You Go ….

Regent Seven Seas Cruises –, 844-473-4368

Oceania Cruises –, 855-301-5504

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