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This Land is Your Land

By Matt Cortina, Allison Jarrell and Eric Heinz

A man who calls himself Soldierboy, inside of stove-heated tarpaulin dome at the Oceti Sakowin protest camp in North Dakota, makes one thing clear to the group: We’re at Standing Rock to build a nation.

In fact, the nation already exists. It’s a stretch of land in the Western Dakotas and Nebraska whose boundaries pre-date mid-18th-century treaties that have since been broken by the federal government. The nation has rules that, in order to stay in the camp, all must abide by, as they would in any other country. If the rules are not followed, the Sioux will boot out offenders, and they’ll do it, Soldierboy says, their way.

Soldierboy is tall with hulking shoulders that fill out a camouflage fleece. He wears a winter hat and jeans—it’s gusty and 10 degrees in North Dakota—and he addresses a group of protesters or “water protectors” in the dome for the first time because he says he has seen Sioux rules broken within the main camp of protestors in Standing Rock. Rules that prohibit photography around drum circles and horses; that protect the integrity of the fire; that require elders, women and children to eat first. There are forums for women to air women’s problems, and forums for men to air men’s problems. It’s their rules. That’s what sovereignty means. And there should be culture shock.

And yet, there are so many positions influencing what the protest camp is becoming that an announcement like that needed to be made. The movement to stop an oil and gas pipeline, the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), from being built under the Missouri River, the area’s water source, began in April, on private land owned by Lakota member LaDonna Bravebull Allard. That camp has since become the Sacred Stone prayer camp, while across the river, the main Oceti Sakowin camp has been built on Army Corps land the Sioux believes is theirs. Scores of environmentalists, civil rights activists, indigenous peoples’ advocates and more have been drawn to the area. Their numbers can surge to 4,000 people on the weekends, while representing over 300 indigenous tribes from around the world—the largest meeting of tribes in at least a century. Media, too, has been abundant at the camp—the joke is that 3,000 people are at Standing Rock and 2,000 are journalists.

Read the rest here.

Paul is Dead and Other Rumors from the Dana Point Art Scene

Photos and Text by Matt Cortina

I’m not buying it. Mark Downing is showing me The Beatles’ Let it Be and Let it Die album covers, and saying one has the photo of Paul McCartney and the other has a photo of Billy Shears. Paul died in a car crash in 1965, didn’t I know? I laugh, and he doesn’t.

Meanwhile, a free-spirit with a nose ring and a black kimono says the neon Talking Heads: 77 album on the counter costs more money than she has in her entire life at the moment. I look at the price tag, and my soul is warmed.

Downing’s shop is first on my unofficial tour of Dana Point art spots. When I ask for his opinion on the city’s art scene, he says, “There is one?”

It’s an easy perception to have. Steps away from Downing’s store is a statue of a cow painted with members of the band Green Day on it. That cow is steps away from another painted cow, which is steps away from another with Kobe Bryant painted on it. That is steps away from a painted elephant.

Read the rest here.

Darrell Issa, Doug Applegate vie for Congressional seat

By Matt Cortina, San Clemente Times

If polling and primary results are reliable indicators, the race for the U.S. Representative for California’s 49th Congressional District is the tightest it’s been in over 15 years.

The 49th spans from South Orange County to North San Diego County, including Camp Pendleton, Dana Point, San Clemente and San Juan Capistrano. Congressman Darrell Issa (R-Vista) has served as the district’s representative since 2000*, winning eight elections—all but one by more than 20 percent.

This year brings a new challenger in Doug Applegate, a retired Marine colonel and lawyer, who has lived in San Clemente since 1981. The two were separated by just over 5 percent in California’s primary voting. Some recent polls have the race closer than that margin.

San Clemente Times sat down with the candidates for over an hour each at our office to discuss federal issues, local concerns and the race itself. In our print edition, we’ve included our discussions about several key issues, but our conversations included points on immigration, water security, the military, marijuana legalization, gun control, SONGS and more.

Click to view the full transcripts of our conversations with Congressman Issa and Mr. Applegate.

*The district was labeled the 48th in the 2000 election.

Read the rest here.

Colorado’s role in California’s Porter Ranch disaster

By Matt Cortina

It is eerie in Porter Ranch. It feels like an uber-rich Mayberry, if the Mayberry gas utility started leaking massive quantities of methane and forced everyone to evacuate. In the hills above gated communities — including Porter Ranch, which is on par with Bel-Air for Los Angeles County income supremacy — there are trails and one-lane roads that swoop and cavort the mounts covered in oil and gas sites, many of them decades old.

Down below in the streets of Porter Ranch, people are trying to return their lives to normal. You see them on mountain bikes and running trails, but it’s eerie still. More than 4,000 homeowners have yet to return. And just knowing that their absence is due to a massive natural gas leak makes you wonder if the cool steady breeze is carrying something just dying to give you a nosebleed or lung troubles.

If you squint, Porter Ranch looks a lot like parts of Colorado. In fact, for now, part of Porter Ranch is Colorado. A good portion of the contamination that has thrown this community onto the front pages of newspapers all around the world was pulled out of the ground in Colorado, transported via pipeline or rail to Southern California, stored in the Aliso Canyon storage facility in Porter Ranch where it then escaped into the atmosphere from an old well, saturating the air in the neighborhood and comprising the worst methane leak in U.S. history.

Yes, Colorado’s role in the Porter Ranch methane leak is integral. The methane from our natural gas that leaked in California is what forced the evacuation and relocation of thousands of families. What it shows is that no matter how strict the regulations Colorado puts on its oil and gas activities, the safety of the hydrocarbons we pull from our ground is often determined by other states and federal agencies. If Porter Ranch is to be seen as an example, the system is fraught with poor and inconsistent oversight policies. The infrastructure in place to transport and store oil and gas is weak at best — a recent Harvard study found the U.S. is the worst emitter of methane in the world. And by extension, Colorado as a major natural gas producer and distributor is one of the largest culprits when it comes to allowing methane to escape into the atmosphere. Research has found that the gas fields of the Four Corners area leak as much as 10 percent of their entire production every day. And as Porter Ranch made perfectly clear, large quantities of Colorado’s natural gas are escaping after the gas leaves the state.

Even when well and storage sites are abandoned across the country, new research indicates these old wells still leak massive quantities of methane and other harmful chemicals. And this major source of greenhouse gasses is mostly unregulated and unseen.

Read the rest here.