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News from the San Joaquin Valley


Associated Press
July 19 2006

LINDSAY, Calif. - Activist groups are calling for more local pesticide restrictions after their independent monitors showed that airborne pesticide levels in Tulare County are unsafe.

Levels of chlorpyrifos, a pesticide banned for household use but still applied to orange, cotton and almond fields, exceeded government safety levels, according to several groups who have monitored drifting pesticides for two years as part of a project based in Lindsay.

"We want a buffer zone to prevent spraying around vulnerable areas, like schools and houses, so we can protect our children," Margaret Reeves, a scientist working with the project, said Tuesday.

The pesticide can cause headaches, blurred vision, difficulty breathing and has been associated with low birth weights in babies, according to the Pesticide Action Network.

County and state pesticide regulators said they would need to verify the groups' results before taking any action.

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BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (AP) - State labor inspectors ordered the shutdown of 23 Kern County construction sites after they found unlicensed contractors, state officials said.

Investigators visited 27 sites in the Bakersfield area last week as part of a yearlong, statewide effort to crack down on "California's huge illegal underground economy," said the Economic & Employment Enforcement Coalition, a group created last year to target the construction, agriculture, restaurant, garment manufacturing and other industries.

State officials found more than 100 violations that can cost contractors up to $264,000 in fines during the Kern County sweep.

The state Department of Industrial Relations wouldn't give out specific company or contractor names until businesses have had a chance to appeal the citations, spokesman Dean Fryer said.

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MODESTO, Calif. (AP) - Stanislaus County officials said they will not reschedule a belly dancing class at a library after free speech advocates presented them with more than 1,000 signatures protesting the cancellation.

The decision was not a matter of censorship, but a clash with the library's mission to "foster the love of reading and open the door to knowledge," the board of supervisors said Tuesday.

"If I wanted to censor, I would start with Playboy," Supervisor Bill O'Brien said. The library carries the magazine in its collection.

County CEO Rick Robinson, who made the original decision to cancel the class in April, also said the class was inadequately explained in advertising and in the contract with the belly dancing teacher. The library will draft a new policy for hiring performers or speakers, he said.