Boy Scouts on defensive over endangered plant

Biologist Andrea Edwards inspects a Dudley's lousewort along a trail at the Boy Scouts' Camp Pico Blanco south of Carmel, Calif. The Boy Scouts have cut down old-growth trees at the camp and trampled specimens of the rare plant. Erik Verduzco, Center for Investigative Reporting

Biologist Andrea Edwards inspects a Dudley's lousewort along a trail at the Boy Scouts' Camp Pico Blanco south of Carmel, Calif. The Boy Scouts have cut down old-growth trees at the camp and trampled specimens of the rare plant. Erik Verduzco, Center for Investigative Reporting

The Boy Scouts intolerance toward gays may be the most high-profile controversy involving the organization, but it isn’t the only one.

In California, “the organization also has compiled a poor record on environmental protection,” according to an investigation by the Center for Investigative Reporting.

The latest brouhaha in the Golden State centers around Dudley’s lousewort, an endangered flowering plant that grows in Camp Pico Blanco, a Boy Scout camp south of Monterey, Calif.

Kim Kuska, who has been expelled from the Boy Scouts, has a passion for the plant. Now the former biology teacher finds himself banned from the camp because of his efforts to save the plant.

“Kuska says he was kicked out for being a whistle-blower and exposing the Scouts’ environmental transgressions,” according to CIR.

That’s not all. The Boy Scouts also have been accused of clear-cutting forestland across the country, operating a dam that killed steelhead trout and cutting down trees in an old-growth forest without a permit, CIR found in its investigation.

For it’s part, the Boy Scouts acknowledge that “there have been some well-documented concerns,” according to CIR. They told CIR they are creating an environmental management plan for the camp.

C-SPAN to film TV show in Palm Springs

Palm Canyon Drive in Palm Springs circa 1954.

Palm Canyon Drive in Palm Springs circa 1954. (Courtesy of Palm Springs Historical Society)

C-SPAN will spend a week filming in Palm Springs to record a TV special on the city, the public affairs network announced this week.

As part of a series that explores the literary life and history of selected cities, C-SPAN will drive specially made “local content vehicles” around Palm Springs.

They will also interview “local historians, authors and civic leaders.”

Mayor Pro Tem Chris Mills and Director of Tourism Mary Jo Ginther will be among those speaking when C-SPAN starts filming in Palm Springs on Monday.

The network will announce more details then about which stories and segments will be explored, according to a press release sent out.

The footage will be aired during a special Palm Springs weekend June 1 and June 2 on the non-fiction book channel BookTV (on C-PSAN2) and on American History TV (on C-SPAN3).

Other featured cities include Providence, R.I.;  Santa Fe, N.M., Mesa, Ariz. and nd Bakersfield, Calif. (See the full list and air dates here.)

RELATED: See our historical coverage of Palm Springs, which was published in honor of the city’s 75th anniversary this year.

Barbara Boxer wants answers from EPA involving West, TX

Debris litters the ground outside a destroyed apartment complex adjacent to the site of the fire and explosion in West, Texas on Wednesday, April 24, 2013. The explosion at West Fertilizer which killed 14 people left a crater more than 90 feet (27 meters) wide and blasted the walls and windows off dozens of buildings in the town of 2,700. (AP Photo/The San Antonio Express-News, Tom Reel, Pool)

Debris litters the ground outside a destroyed apartment complex adjacent to the site of the fire and explosion in West, Texas on Wednesday, April 24, 2013. The explosion at West Fertilizer which killed 14 people left a crater more than 90 feet (27 meters) wide and blasted the walls and windows off dozens of buildings in the town of 2,700. (AP Photo/The San Antonio Express-News, Tom Reel, Pool)

Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Ca.) whom is chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works wants to open an investigation into the West Fertilizer Co. explosion that occurred in West, Texas April 17.

Boxer, whom has jurisdiction over the EPA, sent a letter April 30 pressing the agency to complete a “comprehensive investigation” into what caused the fire and resulting explosion in West Texas that claimed 15 lives, leveled a portion of a town and injured hundreds.

By May 16 this year, Boxer wants the agency to respond to a number of requests. The most prominent requests are to describe the EPA’s investigation into the facility including “timelines and scopes” and an answer to why ammonium nitrate is “not on the list of covered chemicals that facilities must report to EPA under the Risk Management Program.”

Currently, there are no universal federal regulations that pertain to properly containing ammonium nitrate but fire experts continue to push for facilities to practice preventative action in the event of a chemical leak or similar incident.

The Boxer-led investigation comes at a time as media are reporting that some regulators knew of the facility’s close proximity to two schools, a nursing home and a neighborhood.

Firefighters walk a rail line next to fertilizer plant, on right, destroyed by an explosion in West, Texas, Thursday, April 18, 2013. A massive explosion at the plant killed as many as 15 people and injured more than 160, officials said overnight. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

Firefighters walk a rail line next to fertilizer plant, on right, destroyed by an explosion in West, Texas, Thursday, April 18, 2013. A massive explosion at the plant killed as many as 15 people and injured more than 160, officials said overnight. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

According to The Dallas Morning News, West Fertilizer Co. had difficulties reporting to regulatory agencies in the past:

“In 1984, the company moved two large pressurized tanks of liquid anhydrous ammonia, a potentially lethal poison, from a site in nearby Hill County to its current location in West without notifying state authorities.”

Similarly, West Fertilizer Co. reported to the EPA and local regulatory agencies that the facility presented “no” fire or explosive risk to the public.

The ensuing April 17 explosion registered as a 2.1 on the Richter scale, which would be considered a small earthquake.

According to The Dallas Morning News, Reuters and The Associated Press, West Fertilizer Co. had at least 2400 tons of ammonium nitrate — the same chemical compound that Boxer wants investigated.

This large amount of the ammonium nitrate is 1,350 times the amount that is required for a facility to self-report to the Department of Homeland Security.

Ammonium nitrate is a typical fertilizer used for industrial farming in many regions throughout the world.

The chemical is stable if stored appropriately but it can also be used as a bomb to inflict massive damage as was seen in the bombing of Oklahoma City’s Murrah Federal Building by Timothy McVeigh in 1995.

Koffi opens Rancho Mirage location

Koffi Rancho Mirage

Koffi opened a Rancho Mirage location on Monday (courtesy photo).

Koffi opened a new location in Rancho Mirage on Monday — and it has the first coffee roasting facility of its kind in the Coachella Valley.

The coffee shop, which has in-café coffee roasting, is at at 71380 Highway 111, across from Desert European Motorcars.

It’s open from 5:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily.

The new Koffi is the third of the popular, locally owned Coachella Valley chain that was founded in 2002.

The original location is at 515 N. Palm Canyon Drive in Palm Springs. It added a second location at 1700 S. Camino Real in 2008.

The chain employes 48 people.

Thermal breaks heat record, Palm Springs ties record — again

Thermal broke a heat record Monday, and Palm Springs tied the record for hottest-ever April 29.

Again.

The temperature peaked at 106 degrees in Thermal by about 2:30 p.m. That beats the previous heat record for the day, which was 105 degrees set in 1959.

It hit 106 degrees in Palm Springs — the second weather measuring station in the Coachella Valley — as well. That tied the day’s record of 106 degrees, also set in 1959.

The National Weather Service shows the temperature as dramatically warmer than the normals for the day — 88 in Palm Springs and 91 in Thermal.

It continues an unusually hot stretch of weather, which included records being broken on Sunday and the hottest-ever Stagecoach Festival.

The valley will see a slight cooling down starting Tuesday, with projected highs between 92 and 97 degrees.

Sen. Feinstein: ‘Action must be taken’ against Syria

This March 6, 2013 citizen journalism image provided by Aleppo Media Center AMC which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, shows the minaret of a famed 12th century Umayyad mosque before it was destroyed by the shelling, in the northern city of Aleppo, Syria. The minaret of a famed 12th century Sunni mosque in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo was destroyed Wednesday, April 24, 2013. President Bashar Assad's regime and anti-government activists traded blame for the attack against the Umayyad mosque, which occurred in the heart Aleppo's walled Old City, a UNESCO World Heritage site.(AP Photo/Aleppo Media Center, AMC)

This March 6, 2013 citizen journalism image provided by Aleppo Media Center AMC which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, shows the minaret of a famed 12th century Umayyad mosque before it was destroyed by the shelling, in the northern city of Aleppo, Syria. The minaret of a famed 12th century Sunni mosque in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo was destroyed Wednesday, April 24, 2013. President Bashar Assad's regime and anti-government activists traded blame for the attack against the Umayyad mosque, which occurred in the heart Aleppo's walled Old City, a UNESCO World Heritage site.(AP Photo/Aleppo Media Center, AMC)

One of the bigger international stories to come out of the past few days has been that of Syria and allegations of its use of chemical weapons.

If the reports are true, the stakes for President Barack Obama, Congress, President Bashar Assad, Syrian opposition, Syrian citizens and the international community will be high.

White House aides said they have physiological evidence that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons, however they also acknowledge that this evidence alone is not enough to merit military intervention.

Miguel Rodriguez, Obama’s congressional liaison wrote to lawmakers on Thursday,

“Given the stakes involved, and what we have learned from our own recent experience, intelligence assessments alone are not sufficient — only credible and corroborated facts that provide us with some degree of certainty will guide our decision-making, and strengthen our leadership of the international community.”

The Obama administration wants a UN-led investigation into the country to corroborate claims of chemical weapon usage, but Assad has refused the demands of Obama and some within the international community.

Dianne Feinstein (D-Ca.), who chairs the congressional Intelligence Committee, has stated that the red lines Obama created have been crossed by Syria.

In a statement, Feinstein said,

“It is clear that ‘red lines’ have been crossed and action must be taken to prevent larger-scale use. Syria has the ability to kill tens of thousands with its chemical weapons. The world must come together to prevent this by unified action that results in the secure containment of Syria’s significant stockpile of chemical weapons.”

Feinstein said she received information on the use of chemical weapons from intelligence officials.

Feinstein is concerned that since details on the alleged use of chemicals weapons by Assad have been made public, Assad will feel he has nothing to lose and will therefore escalate force against Syrian opposition.

Feinstein believes the chemical weapon of “mass destruction” being used is sarin.

According to Reuters, sarin is a nerve gas that was created by German scientists in 1938. “It is chemically similar to a class of pesticides known as organophosphates,” Reuters wrote.

White House officials have declined releasing what evidence they have pertaining to chemical weapon usage but they have publicly stated that allegations of a chemical weapon being used in Aleppo earlier this year have prompted a deeper investigation.

Congress, Feinstein briefed by FBI on Boston bombing suspect

FILE PHOTO- A deal between agriculture workers and growers could allow for an immigration overhaul bill, said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, shown this month in San Francisco. AP

FILE PHOTO- A deal between agriculture workers and growers could allow for an immigration overhaul bill, said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, shown this month in San Francisco. AP

As Boston recovers from the marathon bombings and media outlets continue to uncover the details of the suspects and their families, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Ca.) has focused her attention on the FBI.

Based on a tense FBI briefing to members of Congress Tuesday, two US senators in particular were interested in knowing why the bombing suspect was not followed more closely by the FBI.

The suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev who died in a firefight with Boston police Thursday night was contacted by the FBI prior to the Boston incidents according to several news outlets.

Tamerlan first caught the attention of the FBI after Russian officials contacted US officials based on a trip Tamerlan made to Dagestan last year.

At the time, officials were trying to figure out if he became involved with Chechen separatists or Islamic extremists.

According to Reuters, the FBI interviewed Tamerlan in Massachusetts in 2011 but said there was no cause for concern.

When discussing the role of the FBI, Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) and the top Republican on the Senate intelligence committee said,

“I can’t say the FBI dropped the ball, I don’t see anybody yet that dropped the ball. That may develop.”

In that same FBI briefing Feinstein added,

“We had a full discussion back and forth over the process that’s followed, and we need to keep at that, and we need to see if there are any loopholes in it, and that we fix those loopholes.”

Zubeidat Tsarnaeva, mother of Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the two men accused of setting off bombs near the Boston Marathon finish line on April 15, 2013 in Boston, walks near her home in Makhachkala, Dagestan, southern Russia, Tuesday, April 23, 2013. (AP Photo/Ilkham Katsuyev)

Zubeidat Tsarnaeva, mother of Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the two men accused of setting off bombs near the Boston Marathon finish line on April 15, 2013 in Boston, walks near her home in Makhachkala, Dagestan, southern Russia, Tuesday, April 23, 2013. (AP Photo/Ilkham Katsuyev)

According the suspects’ mother Zubeidat Tsarnaeva, the FBI was keeping a close eye out on the older brother Tamerlan. Zubeidat told media that the FBI had contacted her because they were “afraid” of him.

Zubeidat said,

“They were telling me that Tamerlan was really an extremist leader and they were afraid of him. They told me whatever information he is getting, he gets from these extremists’ sites.”

Mrs. Tsarnaeva added that Tamerlan first caught the attention of the FBI back in 2008. She said they met with Tamerlan “at least five” times since approximately late 2011, when Tamerlan made his trip to Dagestan.

The suspects’ father Anzor Tsarnaev also claims that the FBI was monitoring Tamerlan.

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal Anzor said FBI agents talked to Tamerlan in 2011. According to Anzor, the FBI told Tamerlan,

“We know what sites you are on, we know where you are calling, we know everything about you. Everything.”

According to Anzor, the FBI was also interested in his son’s activity on the Russian site www.islam.ru.

The FBI responded to these claims by saying after checking Tamerlan and his family’s travel records, online behavior and social ties they “did not find any terrorism activity,” according to The Guardian.

History helps put this week’s news into context

Police officers walk near a crime scene Friday, April 19, 2013, in Watertown, Mass. A tense night of police activity that left a university officer dead on campus just days after the Boston Marathon bombings and amid a hunt for two suspects caused officers to converge on a neighborhood outside Boston, where residents heard gunfire and explosions. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Police officers walk near a crime scene Friday, April 19, 2013, in Watertown, Mass. A tense night of police activity that left a university officer dead on campus just days after the Boston Marathon bombings and amid a hunt for two suspects caused officers to converge on a neighborhood outside Boston, where residents heard gunfire and explosions. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

This has been a bad week. The Associated Press acknowledged this in a story it called, “the terrible week.” MyDesert.com has posted that story with the AP’s suggested headline, “Across America, a week of chaos, horror – and hope.”

During the last seven days, from April 14 to April 20, two bombs exploded at the Boston Marathon; a Mississippi man was arrested on suspicion of sending ricin-laced letters to President Obama and Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss.; a fertilizer plant in West, Texas, exploded; and the city of Boston was put on lockdown as authorities sought the men accused in the marathon bombing.

It’s no wonder parents tried to shield their children from the events playing out on their TVs this week.

“That’s just a movie,” Steffen Kaplan said when his son asked him what was happening. He told the AP he wanted to protect his son.

The United States has been dealing with tragedy since before it’s inception. This past week has been no different. It wasn’t the first time we’ve been stunned by violence, and it won’t be the last.

To put this week’s news into historical context, here are some events that also occurred between April 14 and April 20 and that also shocked the nation.

  • On April 16, 2007, Seung-Hui Choi carries out one of the deadliest school shootings at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, Va. The gunman massacres 32 students and teachers before killing himself.
  • On April 20, 1999, Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris massacre 13 people at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., before killing themselves. The planned attack is one of the worst high school shootings in U.S. history.
  • On April 19, 1995, Timothy McVeigh uses a truck bomb to destroy the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. The attack kills 168 people, making it the deadliest terrorist attack on U.S. soil until Sept. 11, 2001.
  • On April 19, 1993, twenty miles from West, Texas, the ATF and FBI’s 51-day siege of the Branch Davidians’ complex in Waco comes to a fiery end. The debacle leaves 76 people dead, but the cause of their death is hotly debated.
  • On April 18, 1983, a suicide bomber uses a car bomb to attack the U.S. embassy in Beirut, Lebanon. The attack kills 63 people, including 17 Americans.
  • On April 16, 1947, the French-registered ship Grandcamp, which is carrying 2,300 tons of ammonium nitrate, catches on fire in the Port of Texas City. The fire leads to a series of explosions and fires that leave at least 581 people dead. Only one member of the Texas City fire department survives the disaster.
  • On April 20, 1914, the Colorado National Guard and camp guards for the Colorado Fuel & Iron Company attack striking coal miners and their families at a tent colony in Ludlow, Colo. Between 19 to 25 people are killed in the Ludlow Massacre.
  • On April 15, 1912, the RMS Titanic hits an iceberg in the North Atlantic Ocean while on its maiden voyage from Southhampton, England, to New York. The ship sinks, killing 1,502 people.
  • On April 18, 1906, an earthquake hits San Francisco at 5:12 a.m. The temblor, with an estimated magnitude of 7.9 on the Richter scale, and the subsequent fires kill about 3,000 people and destroy about 80 percent of the city.
  • On April 14, 1865, actor John Wilkes Booth shoots President Abraham Lincoln at Ford’s Theatre in Washington. The president dies the next day.

Any look into the historical events of a seven day period will result in a similar list of tragedies  There is nothing special about this seven-day stretch of April. However, this is April, and these are the historical events that occurred on this week’s dates.

Boston Marathon: Desert Hot Springs runner was one block away

Local runner Eduardo Herrada crossed the finish line 30 to 45 minutes before the Boston marathon bombing on Monday.

He was a block away waiting for a friend, who had been ahead of him, to grab his things.

“That moment, I was on my phone talking to my mom, and then there was an explosion,” Herrada told The Desert Sun. “I thought it was fireworks. Two minutes later people started running by; people started panicking.”

Eventually passersby told Herrada what had happened: Two bombs had exploded, killing at least three people and injuring dozens more.

Herrada knew his friend was safe, so he decided to wait for him.

“I saw a woman who was very scared, and she was looking for help. I offered my phone to help her,” Herrada said. “She started giving me the phone number, but she was so scared she never gave me the right name. Then she ran away.”

Herrada’s phone eventually died, but he found his friend two hours later. He was able to let friends and family know he was OK on Facebook before he lost power.

He made it back from the Boston marathon Tuesday morning around 9 am. He said it wasn’t hard getting out of Boston, but he realized TSA had upped their security measures for his return trip.

“They were asking more security questions,” Herrada said. “I had a padlock on my luggage, and they broke it.”

Now that Herrada is home he keeps up with events in Boston. He read Thursday they identified the two suspects and hopes they’re brought to justice.

Despite recent events, Herrada would love to run in the Boston Marathon again. “I like the city. I like the people; people are very friendly there,” he said. “If I had the opportunity, I’d definitely come back.”

Herrada encourages those watching the news to put themselves in the shoes of those who lost family and friends and explore ways they can help.