From the daily archives: Thursday, June 23, 2011

By Luke Phillips
Imperial Valley summers can be brutal, but luckily we’ll have a plethora of eye-popping entertainment on the silver screen to keep us out of the heat and in the theater.
The summer movie season, which seems to start earlier every year, is already in full-swing this year, kicked off by two big Marvel Entertainment movies last month. Marvel’s Thor was released May 6 to mostly negative reviews, but big box office numbers and has already earned approximately $176,000,000 in the U.S. X-Men: First Class, also released by Marvel on June 3, was mostly liked by critics and also had a good haul at the box office, but wasn’t able to match Thor’s numbers, taking in about $120,000,000 domestically.
Also this month, we’ve already seen the release of monster movie Super 8, director JJ Abram’s tribute to old Stephen Spielberg movies. Abrams has been quoted as saying that he was trying to bring back the genre of ‘Alien wonderment’ found in films like E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and in fact Spielberg even served as an executive producer on the film.
Abrams refused to show the film’s monster or give away any plot points in the teaser trailer for Super 8, a move that some Hollywood insiders said would hurt the film’s box office numbers, but so far that hasn’t been the case. Since opening June 10 Super 8 has made about $87,000,000 worldwide. Super 8 has also done fairly well with the critics and currently has a score of 82 percent positive reviews on the web site Rotten Tomatoes.
This past week DC Comics made their latest entry into the movie arena with Green Lantern. Except for the latest Batman movies, DC hasn’t faired nearly as well as Marvel when it comes to comic book movies, releasing such flops as Catwoman and Superman Returns. But Green Lantern earned $75 million it’s first week and could turn out to be their biggest movie since the mega-successful Dark Knight in 2008.
On June 24 we’ll get to see the first big comedy of the season, Bad Teacher starring Cameron Diaz as a drinking, drugging and incredibly foul-mouthed high-school teacher trying to win the heart  of a wealthy substitute teacher.
Also being released June 24 is the sequel to Disney/Pixar’s 2006 animated feature Cars. Cars 2 will reunite the entire cast and crew including director John Lasseter and stars Owen Wilson, Larry the Cable Guy and Michael Caine.
On June 29 director Michael Bay rolls out his third movie about everybody’s favorite robots in disguise. Transformers: Dark of the Moon will have all the elements of a great summer popcorn movie: Giant robots, explosions, more special-effects than you can shake a stick at, along with star Shia Lebouf and whichever sexy girl he’s wearing on his arm this time around.
On July 15 the decade-long Harry Potter saga will come to an end with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II, featuring young wizard Harry Potter in the ultimate face-off against his mortal enemy Lord Voldemort, all in jump-off-the-screen digital 3D. Don’t fall off your broomstick!
We’ll get another dose of comic-booky goodness on July 22 when Marvel releases it’s third big feature of the summer: Captain America: The First Avenger. Closely following his comic book origins, Captain America will star Chris Evans (Not Another Teen Movie, Fantastic Four) as a WWII soldier who is deemed too wimpy to enlist and is instead volunteered for an experiment that turns him in to a super soldier. Captain America, along with his sidekick Bucky Barnes, fight the Red Skull, the fictitious head of Hitler’s advanced weapons program.
One of the most anticipated movies of the summer, Cowboys & Aliens, will be released July 29 and will feature Daniel Craig (James Bond!) and Harrison Ford (Han Solo!) as cowboy bad-asses that are forced to fight off an alien invasion in an old west town. What more could a moviegoer ask for?
Also on the 29th,  80s cartoon favorite The Smurfs will get their first big-screen adaptation featuring CGI renderings of our favorite blue characters set lose on New York City. The film stars Jonathan Winters as the voice of Papa Smurf, Taylor Swift as Smurfette, Neil Patrick Harris as Brainy Smurf and Hank Azaria as bad guy Gargamel.
Set for an August 5 release, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, a prequel to the famous Planet of the Apes series starring James Franco, will tell the story of how a race of super-intelligent apes came to rule the earth.
On August 19 the Summer movie season will wrap up with a trio of big releases.
First up, we’ll get a new interpretation of the film that made Arnold Schwarzenegger famous: Conan the Barbarian. The filmmakers insist the new movie is not a remake of the original and will take the franchise in an entirely new direction. The film stars Jason Momoa in the titular role, along with Rose McGowan, Stephen Lang and Ron Pearlman.
Next is a remake of the classic 80s horror movie Fright Night. The new movie will feature a plot nearly identical to the original about a teenage boy who suspects that his neighbor is a vampire. Anton Yelchin is set to play the lead with Colin Farrell in the neighbor/vampire role.
And last but not least, director Robert Rodriguez (Sin City, Planet Terror) will give us the 4th installment of his Spy Kids series. Spy Kids: All the Time in the World will be the first movie in the series since 2003s Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over and will feature twins Rebecca and Cecil teaming with their hated step-mother Marissa (played by Jessica Alba) to help save the world from a Nazi wizard.


Al Kalin, TMDL On-Farm Consultant

Forty years ago I was appointed to a committee to save the Salton Sea by Tunney Williams, a County Supervisor at the time. Funding was found to study the problem, but nothing ever came of the committee’s work. Tunney passed away this past October a month short of his 97th birthday.
In 2004 the California Secretary of Resources appointed me to yet another committee to save the Salton Sea as the result of legislature passed along with the signing of the Quantification Settlement Agreement (QSA), to bring peace to the river over water rights for the next 35 years. The other members of the committee include many of the stake holders around the Salton Sea as well as scientists, engineers, bureaucrats and consultants.
We met numerous times in Sacramento, in San Francisco, in Los Angeles, in Ontario, in Palm Desert; we even met in Holtville and El Centro. Millions of dollars were spent to study the Salton Sea in even greater detail.
After a few years eight plans were developed by the committee along with two “No Action Alternatives.” From the eight plans a preferred alternative was picked and sent to the Secretary of Resources. The goal was for the State Legislature to approve the plan and funding to implement it. Unfortunately the Secretary of Resources didn’t like our plan and came up with one on his own that cost $8.9 billion dollars, effectively saying he knew more about the Salton Sea than all the people on the committee. Legislation was never passed on the preferred alternative because the cost was too high for the almost bankrupt state to implement.
Four years later the sea has still not been saved and the QSA has been invalidated because the legislation that accompanied the QSA provided for unlimited funding. A judge ruled that was illegal. Meanwhile everyone is scrambling to get the QSA back on track and the Salton Sea continues to die and wither on the vine.
Saving the Salton Sea, as we imagine it being saved, will probably never happen. Instead grant money will continue to be made available for numerous consultants and scientists to study and recommend things to do that will never get done. For over forty years the Salton Sea has financially supported a large group of scientists and consultants.
With one ton of salt entering our valley with each acre-foot of water we receive from the Colorado River, the Salton Sea had become very salty. In addition, run-off from the farm fields has dumped that salt in the Salton Sea along with large amounts of fertilizer including phosphate.
Phosphate is the key fertilizer that causes massive algae blooms in the sea. After each algae bloom the dead algae sinks to the bottom and rots, reducing oxygen levels and creating the rotten egg smelling hydrogen sulfide. That in turn poisons the fish and other critters living in the Sea. The mixture of dead fish decaying on the shore and the rotten egg smell of the hydrogen sulfide, at times, has been overpowering.
For the last two years though, there has been no odor coming from the Salton Sea. In talking with Dr. Doug Barnum from the USGS Salton Sea Science office in La Quinta, he believes the lack of odor is due to Imperial Valley farmer’s diligence in implementing the Imperial Valley Silt TMDL program which has been very successful in reducing silt from leaving their fields. Phosphate cannot travel in the water going to the Salton Sea unless it is attached to a silt particle.
Although there has been no scientific study to prove it, Dr. Barnum strongly believes the farmer’s efforts to reduce phosphate levels in the Salton Sea by reducing silt leaving their fields have quietly accomplished what forty-plus years of study and promises has not been able to do. And for that, all you farmers who continue to implement best management practices on your fields should


Luke Phillips
The family of three Imperial Valley women who were killed in a car accident after Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent Cole Joseph Dotson ran a stop sign at a high rate of speed and collided with their vehicle on a country road near El Centro in 2009.
Dotson was arraigned late last month on three charges of Vehicular manslaughter, but the families of Sandra Garcia, Patricia Martinez-Reyes and Maria Consuelo say they still don’t feel like justice is being properly served.
According to Alfredo Garcia, son of Sandra Garcia, Dotson is still on duty and working for ICE.
“I would have thought they would have stopped him from working,” Garcia said. “I don’t see how somebody can cause such a thing like that and still be working and going through life like nothing happened. It’s something that you just don’t expect.”
Dotson plead not guilty to the charges at his arraignment on Tuesday, May 31 and Garcia says he was laughing and joking as he left the courthouse.
“He’s out like nothing happened. He can wake up and go to his job and continue working,” Garcia said. “I don’t see how it’s fair to our family. If it was a citizen other than law enforcement I’m pretty sure they would have been put in jail within the first two days.”
Dotson is scheduled for a pre-trial hearing on July 12 and Garcia says he hopes all the proper steps are taken and that justice is truly served.
“We just want everything to be handled the right way,” he said. “It won’t bring my mom back, but at least it will give us a little relief knowing that there are consequences for every action you take. For him to not deal with the consequences is not fair.”
Garcia says that he’s not happy with the way ICE or the government has handled the entire case.
“We haven’t even heard or received a call from the government saying we’re sorry for your loss,” he said. “We’ve had no help from them at all.”
The families of the women ended up having to take out a loan of $14,000 to pay for funeral expenses after they asked ICE to cover the charges and were refused. Garcia says the agency told him that they couldn’t set a precedence of paying for burial expenses.
For now, Garcia says he’ll wait to see what happens at Dotson’s trial, but he also says he’ll work to tell people about what he calls the injustices he sees in the judicial system.
“I want the people to hear what really happened,” he said. “I’m not just going to stay quiet. It’s just not fair.”
An ICE Public Relations officer told the Holtville Tribune that they could not provide any comment because the case is ongoing, but they were able to confirm that Dotson is still on duty, but has been moved to administrative work and is not active in the field.


Phil Mestomack
[This summer, our resident gastronome Phil Mestomack takes to highways and byways to find the best burger the valley has to offer.  What will Phil’s talented taste buds tell us this week?]

Burger, fries and a soda. or milkshake.  Nothing brings out the sense of pure Americana more than that classic combo.
The image of young women in rollerskates at the car-hop carrying trays of the meal while young couples enjoy themselves is as much a part of the burger & fries as the food itself.
Arnold’s (Happy Days), the Olympia Cafe (Saturday Night Live), and the Krusty Krab (Spongebob Squarepants) are some of the fictional places that are based on the humble hamburger.
A few years ago, the Weekly-Chronicle focused on the best burgers in Brawley.  Now, we search for the best burgers in the Valley.

The Rules:

This summer, the meal will be the bacon Cheeseburger, which normally consists of bacon, cheese, the burger and the condiments.
The restaurants will be judged on service and the flavor  and quality of the burger itself along with any extras, like fries.

Restaurant #1
The first restaurant on our survey is Burgers & Beer, located at 260 N. Imperial Avenue in El Centro.
Burgers & Beer have won a number of contests in recent years proclaiming themselves the “Best Burger in Town.”
The ambiance of the place is reminiscent of a large city sports bar more than a restaurant, with plenty of memorabilia adorning the walls and several large screen televisions broadcasting the latest games and events.
Service at Burgers & Beer can be very sporadic, given the  popularity of the restaurant and the tight spacing of tables and booths.  After drinks and our order, the food took almost 15 minutes to arrive.
The burger itself had two thin pieces of bacon on top of the requested cheddar cheese (which was extra) and the 1/3 lbs patty.    The bun was toasted with butter. and had pieces of red onion, lettuce and tomato on top.
Condiments came on a separate tray and included ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, onions, hot carrots, peppers, steak sauce and more.
The flavor of the burger was quite potent, with plenty of meat juices and salt complimenting the taste.  The toasted bun added an extra texture component and also helped keep the top of the bun (the crown) dry.
Fries (which were extra) were hot when delivered but cooled down considerably while at the table.
Service score:  C+-.  While popular restaurants do often have issues with service, waiting 15 minutes for the food to arrive while was problematic.
Burger score:  A.  It’s easy to see why so many people like the burgers at the restaurant.  The burger was quite juicy and the toasted bun added a nice texture to the dish.
Price:  $7.79 for a 1/3 pound bacon burger.  Cheese and fries are extra.

Restaurant #2
Next in our sights is Brownie’s Diner, located in Brawley at 990 Main Street.
Brownie’s Diner serves multiple types of cuisines, including Mexican and American favorites. A daily menu of specials are also available.
The restaurant’s decor is a combination of sports and movie memorabilia,with one wall dedicated to the “Golden Age of Hollywood” and the other focused on, mostly, American football.
After seating ourselves, drinks were ordered and promptly delivered and, once the meal was ordered, came hot to the table in short time.
The burger came pre-assembled, with mayo, mustard, lettuce, pickle, tomato and onion.  It was cut in half for convenience.
Unfortunately, the burger itself, while touted as “100% Angus Beef,” had little beef flavor.  Instead, the flavor of the yellow mustard was present throughout the dish.  The bacon was cooked well, but still fatty.
The burger came with a choice of french fries or potato salad.  Onion rings could be had for an additional 99¢.
Service Score:  B+.  The staff were always checking on us to make sure things were satisfactory and the speed in which the drinks and the food were delivered was pleasant to see.
Burger Score:  C.  The strong mustard flavor was a turn-off, although that can be avoided in the future by simply asking for the condiments to be separated from the burger.

[Where will Phil’s adventure through the best burgers in the Imperial Valley take us next week?  Find out in next week’s Weekly-Chronicle!]


Pioneers Memorial Healthcare District has a wonderful team of caregivers. To recognize the outstanding nurses during National Nurses Week this year, a peer-based selection by each nursing unit was employed. The selected outstanding clinical staff members, by department, were as follows:

Aracely Nelson, RN, BSN – Perinatal Service
Carmen Fitzsimmons, RN – Float Pool
Clara Miranda, RN, BSN, PHN – Case Management
D’Andre York, RN – NICU
Eric Aragon, LVN – Medical/Surgery Unit
Hui Su Felix, RN – ICU
Jessica Ancheta, RN, BSN – Surgery
Nicole Castaneda, RN, BSN, PHN – ER
Nita Bhakta, RN – Definitive Observation Unit
Yolanda Smith, RN – Pediatrics

To celebrate the recognition, a dinner was held at Aspen in the Desert during Nurses Week.  Helina Hoyt, RN, MS, the RN/BSN Nursing Coordinator at San Diego State University, spoke to the awardees and the nursing leadership on the future of nursing. A proclamation by Brawley mayor Don Campbell recognizing Nurses Week was also read to the gathering.
“We are proud of our nursing team. These ten individuals are certainly deserving of the recognition,” stated John A. Coldsmith, RN, MSN, CRNI, Chief Nursing Office at Pioneers Memorial Healthcare District. Of the 700+ employees at Pioneers, over 300 of them are nurses.
“In my over ten years as a board member for PMHD, I have watched the expansion of our nursing team with pride. As the number of nurses has increased, their technical skills have improved. Leadership is certainly to be credited for this; however, the dedication of our nursing team, as well as of all our employees, to providing the best-quality healthcare in the valley is inherent to PMHD,” stated Marcus Tapia, President of the PMHD Board of Directors.

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