Displaced business owner hijacks Tustin’s Wikipedia page to vent “Since 2009, Tustin has changed and is no longer a ‘Business Friendly’ community,” the introduction pronounced

Tustin, California

If, earlier this week, you clicked on Tustin’s Wikipedia page to research the city’s demographics or history, you may have found yourself either confused or amused.

“Since 2009, Tustin has changed and is no longer a ‘Business Friendly’ community,” the introduction pronounced.

The bio went on to list examples indicating Tustin’s “bad business climate” – mainly, the City Council’s recent vote to rezone a 7-acre piece of property from industrial to residential.

By Thursday morning, not long after city officials were approached for a comment, the Wikipedia entry had returned to its usual tone – dryly stating geographical location, population statistics and such.

“We don’t monitor Wikipedia every day,” said City Manager Jeff Parker. “But if someone brings something to our attention, we check to make sure things are accurate. Wikipedia is supposed to be as factual as possible – not opinion-based.”

So whodunnit? All clues hinted at one of the disgruntled tenants forced to leave the soon-to-be-leveled industrial complex, wedged between Old Town and the I-5. In September, about 30 businesses there received notice that their month-to-month leases would not be renewed by their landlord, who wanted to sell the property.

A 140-unit condominium complex is scheduled to break ground on the lot next spring.

Perhaps the project’s most vocal critic is Lyann Courant, co-owner of Advantage Manufacturing, which makes swimming pool pumps. Under a tight deadline, she and her husband moved their equipment and 23 employees to Santa Ana last week.

Asked if she knew anything about the Wikipedia hack, Courant responded, “I wouldn’t say it was ‘hacked’ exactly. Anyone can post on Wikipedia.”

Quite right, said the nonprofit’s spokeswoman Samantha Lien.

“By its very nature, Wikipedia will always be a work in progress,” she said. “It’s a living encyclopedia that can be updated in real time.”

Courant eventually acknowledged that she was the one who wrote the anti-Tustin rant.

“I’ve been screaming from the social media rooftops as loudly as I can,” she said. “Social media and the web in general give the average person an opportunity to share their side of the story in a way that was never possible before.”

Founded in 2001, now ubiquitous Wikipedia enjoys an almost all-knowing reputation – as though its words come from experts on the subject – despite myriad college professors warning students against using it as a primary source.

“That is the problem – people perceive Wikipedia as absolutely factual,” Parker said.

Yet anyone with a computer can easily insert information – as well as opinions and even fake news – simply by hitting the “edit” button.

That feature keeps Wikipedia ever-current, unlike a dusty set of World Books. But it also makes the site vulnerable to unvetted material, despite the site’s policy encouraging neutral and well-cited articles.

A University of California, Santa Cruz, study in 2010 estimated that about 7 percent of all edits to Wikipedia articles constitute “vandalism.”

Usually, it’s readers themselves who make the corrections, Lien said, adding, “The more eyes on a page, the more reliable and balanced its information.”

Needless to say, Tustin does not attract the traffic that a contentious news event or famous celebrity might.

Courant offers no apology for “enhancing” Wikipedia’s Tustin page.

“Yeah,” she said, “it was a little satisfying.”

Contact the writer: sgoulding@scng.com

http://www.ocregister.com/articles/wikipedia-738578-tustin-city.html

Homeless across country fall victim to synthetic marijuana ” Pot Zombies”

St. Louis, Missouri –

The nation’s homeless are proving to be especially susceptible to a new, dirt-cheap version of synthetic marijuana, which leaves users glassy-eyed, aimless, sprawled on streets and sidewalks oblivious to their surroundings or wandering into traffic.

Nearly 300 homeless people became ill last month in St. Louis due to the man-made hallucinogen that experts believe is far more dangerous and unpredictable than the real thing. Other outbreaks have occurred in New York City, Los Angeles and Austin, Texas.

“It was common for us to see reactions where they were violent, incoherent, sometimes catatonic on the ground,” Austin police Lt. Kurt Thomas said.

The homeless are easy targets in a confined area, experts say. The drug is cheap – as little as $1 or $2 for a joint – more difficult to detect in drug tests and is a fast escape from a harsh reality.

Things got so bad in St. Louis last month that the region’s largest provider of homeless services urged people to stop giving the homeless handouts, because they were worried the money would be used to buy the drug.

The Rev. Larry Rice saw the odd behaviors from several homeless people in the streets outside his New Life Evangelistic Center shelter in downtown St. Louis.

“They told me, ‘You get so low, you get such a sense of hopelessness. Somebody wants to sell this for a dollar and you take it,'” Rice said. “People are desperate out there.”

Synthetic marijuana has been around since the late 2000s, packaged under names like K2, Darkness and Mr. Happy. The Drug Enforcement Administration says it is usually a mixture of herbs and spices sprayed with a synthetic compound chemically similar to THC, the psychoactive ingredients in marijuana. It is typically manufactured in China and sold in places like head shops, but it’s also on the street and over the internet.

State legislatures have outlawed it based on its chemical makeup, but the makers tweak the formula enough that it escapes the provisions of the law. So far in St. Louis, only one charge has been filed – a homeless man accused of selling to others on the street.

“You factor in some of the despair or difficult circumstances that these folks are going through, and they often fall prey to the suppliers offering an outlet to deal with their unfortunate situation,” Thomas said.

The medical dangers are real with synthetic marijuana, which can be up to 100 times more potent than real marijuana, said Dr. Anthony Scalzo, director of toxicology for the Saint Louis University School of Medicine.

Users often experience rapid heartbeat, high blood pressure, anxiety and hallucinations, he said.

Research published last year in the New England Journal of Medicine indicated that 20 deaths from August 2011 through April 2015 were blamed on synthetic marijuana, though that doesn’t account for overdose deaths of undetermined or multiple causes. Scalzo said those who survive can suffer permanent kidney failure and brain damage.

“We have no idea how the body is going to react to the next wave of chemicals,” Scalzo said. “It’s like Russian roulette. You just don’t know what you’re getting.”

During one outbreak in Brooklyn in July, 130 people were hospitalized. Witnesses said many of users were shaking or leaning aimlessly against trees and fire hydrants.

In emergency room interviews, users said they would prefer to smoke real marijuana but took the synthetic drug to avoid detection in urine tests typically mandated for probation and parole issues and other reasons, according to Michelle Nolan of the New York City Health Department.

“For individuals still using a psychoactive substance, this afforded them, criminally speaking, fewer risks,” Nolan said.

The Skid Row area of downtown Los Angeles saw the scourge over a few days in August, when 36 people were treated for overdoses. Some had seizures, others staggered through traffic or collapsed on curbs.

Around 150 homeless people have overdosed on synthetic marijuana since August in Austin, and one death was blamed on the drug, Thomas said. Police and homeless advocates in Austin are warning those on the street to avoid the temptation to use, but know it’s an uphill battle.

“Being realistic, we’re always going to have a group of folks who are willing to engage in self-destructive behavior,” Thomas said.

© 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/U/US_SYNTHETIC_MARIJUANA_HOMELESS?SITE=AP&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT&CTIME=2016-12-17-10-30-58

The pledge by Team Newport to audit the $140 million Taj Mahal – $228 million with debt service – Newport Beach allocates $300,000 for Civic Center audit

Newport Beach, California –

An audit of the Newport Beach Civic Center construction process is moving ahead with a new – and higher – price tag.

The City Council voted 4-3 Tuesday in favor of the audit and to allocate $300,000 for its completion, including periodic reporting to the council.

Mayor Ed Selich and council members Keith Curry and Tony Petros voted against the measure.

Councilwoman Diane Dixon said the council owed constituents an audit of the $140 million project. She said it would also give the city a better idea of how to manage future projects the same size or scope of the Civic Center.

“My wish is this gets a clean bill of health and we can move on,” Dixon said. “I’d like to take the acrimony out of this and see this as a positive.”

Curry called the audit a political manipulation to use in the upcoming election cycle. The city manager already provided “two feet” of documents and a review of the building process, he said. Taxpayer money could be better used for projects in the community, he said.

“We’re asking consultants to tell us who won WWII,” Curry said. “It’s a complete waste of money.”

Planning for the facility started more than 15 years ago and its scope morphed significantly over the years, according to Register archives. The complex near Fashion Island opened in 2013 and included the government building, council chambers, a 450-space parking structure sunk to protect views, a 17,000-square-foot library expansion and a 14-acre park connected by an over-road bridge.

The council in June asked the city attorney’s office to hire an independent audit project manager, who could then hire a firm to do a financial and management performance audit of the Civic Center project. When the audit was originally brought up in January by council members, a price tag of $100,000 was highlighted.

Allyson Gipson, the independent audit manager hired by the city, said the industry standard for the cost of audits this size are usually one percent of the total cost of the project, though she thought the city could get an audit at about half that price.

A staff report suggested a two-phase audit, which could cost as much as $560,000 – about $110,000 for the first phase and $450,000 for the second. The council voted to limit the audit to one phase and set the limit at $300,000.

http://www.ocregister.com/articles/audit-693820-council-city.html?utm_source=MailingList&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Keeping+a+Campaign+Promise+%E2%80%93+Auditing+the+Taj
Contact the writer: 714-796-7990 or mnicolai@ocregister.com
Keeping a Campaign Promise – Auditing the Taj

Dear Friend,

Our steering committee met a couple of weeks ago to review the past year since Team Newport was elected, and plan for the 2016 city elections.

One of the key issues in last year’s election was the pledge by Team Newport to audit the $140 million Taj Mahal. ($228 million with debt service)

On a 4-3 vote, Team Newport (Diane Dixon, Kevin Muldoon, Duffy, and Scott Peotter) approved a $300,000 contract to conduct an audit with the goal of finding out if taxpayers were fleeced, or if the costs were supportable and reasonable.

Of course, leading the opposition to the audit was Keith Curry – the councilman that spent over $1 million trying to ban wood burning fire rings.

You can read the Register’s recap of the city council’s action here, including Keith Curry’s claim that the audit is a politically motivated “complete waste of money.”

I am proud that Team Newport kept their word – a novelty in these times.

Sincerely,
Bob McCaffrey

Volunteer Chairman, Residents for Reform

Newport Beach