21st century moms – multitasking proficients

My latest feature article published in Ventura County Reporter:

21st century M.O.M.s

Masters Of Multitasking

By Carla Iacovetti 05/09/2013

“Mother love is the fuel that enables a normal human being to do the impossible.”
– Marion C. Garretty

The role of motherhood has dramatically changed over the last 100 years. During much of the 18th and 19th centuries, women did not do much outside of the home. A woman’s success was measured by her ability to care for her family and maintain order in the home. She was the center of the family, and all of her duty was fundamental to her roll as the mother.
Carol Costello Casey, grandmother to the local Curran surfing family, was a full-time working mother and loved every minute of it.
“There was nothing like watching my children grow,” she said. “Nothing is more important in life than being a mother. I’ve been fortunate to have three wonderful children, eight grandchildren and six great-grandchildren, and I greatly treasure each and every one of them.”
A native of Boston, Casey left at 18 after she married a marine. The young couple lived in North Carolina and Florida, and then made their way to the San Fernando Valley, eventually ending up here in Ventura County.
Though working full-time was less common during Casey’s early years of motherhood, she managed to work and successfully raise three kids. Even with a full-time job, Casey always focused on the family and diligently strived to nurture her kids.
“I’m so proud of my kids and how they have raised their own families. It’s been humbling to watch the legacy of this family continue to develop,” Casey said.

Carol Costello Casey (right) with her daughter Debbie,
who is the mother of Timmy, Nathaniel, Joshua and Taylor Curran.

Casey admits that being grandmother to the famed surfer Timmy Curran was exciting, but it did not ever take away from her love and devotion to any of the other grandkids.
“All my grandkids are the same in my eyes. Each have unique personalities, talents and abilities, and I’m forever proud of them all,” Casey said.
It was fun to pick up a magazine and see her grandson’s face on the cover.
“What amazed me the most with Timmy is that his personality never changed,” she said. “He was this funny, happy-go-lucky, normal kid, who was making a lot of money and gaining a lot of popularity in the surf world. I credit his stability to his parents — they did a great job of raising Timmy and the three other boys. Joshua works in the television industry, Nathaniel is also a pro surfer, and Taylor, who has recently graduated from high school, is also competitively surfing.
“Timmy’s break happened when surfing was just taking root and the sport was being appreciated for the sport itself — the timing was right. It’s hard to fathom that I have a celebrity for a grandson because I don’t think of him that way. He’s my first grandson, and like all the others, he holds a special place in my heart.”
“Mothers work so hard,” she continued. “I think all of the expectations that surround motherhood makes it all the more challenging to raise a family in today’s world. I admire mothers today who can juggle the responsibilities of home life, work and all of the extra activities and do a great job of raising a family.”
Even though the dynamics today have become more intense, Casey believes that a child’s behavior and how it develops in life are very dependent on family life. “After all, family life is all you have. It’s the only thing that you have that really belongs to you.”

It’s complicated …

Because most families require two incomes, life has grown a little more complicated.
“My advice to working moms is to have quality time together around the dinner table. Turn off the television, set the cell phones aside, and spend time talking as a family together — listen to one another,” Casey said.
Even though life was busy for Casey, sharing a weekly meal together became a family routine.
“I think it’s important to establish that pattern when they’re young. With the world going at a much faster pace, there are a lot of distractions today; but if a mother will make this a priority, her kids will thank her later,” she said.
While women still share the experience of pregnancy and endure the pains of labor, the life of today’s mother is complicated. In fact, nowadays a mother needs to be a multitasking proficient.

Amanda Armitage at Disney’s California Adventure with her twin sons.

Amanda Armitage is the full-time IT director for John Muir Charter School and the president of Ventura County Mothers of Multiples (VCMOM), a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization that offers support for parents of twins or higher order multiples. The organization was originally founded in October 1952 as the Ventura Mothers of Twins Club.
Armitage’s involvement with VCMOM is interesting, particularly because she never really wanted children.
“My husband and I weren’t going to even have kids, but we enjoy life and thought it would be fun to procreate!” she said.
Amanda and her husband, Jesse, are also comedians who do competitive improv at Ventura Improv Company (VIC). The couple met at VIC, and when she was pregnant with twins, she performed in a contest at VIC and won.
There are two ways you can look at having dual births: Double trouble or a double blessing.
“Finding out I was pregnant with twins was exciting but sobering. When Jesse and I saw the ultrasound together, all my husband could do was cuss repeatedly,” Armitage said. They quickly began to realize that things would significantly change — starting with dual car seats, a different car and a new place to live. The list kept growing.
“Today, we are very much hands-on parents, and Jesse is extremely involved,” she said. “I have an awesome, rockin’ husband that helps out! Our fraternal twin boys just turned 7 on March 24th, which is also their dad’s birthday.”
Even though Armitage never felt like the motherly type and did not plan on walking down this path, she’s happy with their decision.
“I’m so glad I didn’t miss out on being a mom. It’s so crazy — the minute they were born I felt so connected. No one can possibly prepare you for this kind of bonding. You really don’t understand this until it happens. Once you see your baby for the first time, you’re a gonner! It’s instinctive!”
“I love being a mom. I work full time, and I have a husband, but my boys come first. You really don’t need a lot of ‘stuff’ to be a good mom. Just get down with them. Spend that little bit of extra time with them,” Armitage said.
At the VCMOMS, Armitage likes to encourage new moms. She believes today’s moms put too much pressure on themselves by wanting to do everything right, and it can wear a person out. “In the end, that isn’t good for yourself or for your children.”
The American Sociological Review posted a recent study about the busyness of working mothers.
“Working mothers spend significantly more time multitasking at home than working dads. And those mothers aren’t happy about it,” the report stated. According to the research, which was performed at Michigan State University, a large percentage of working mothers were on “overdrive.” Sociologist Barbara Schneider co-authored the research paper revealing that the mothers experienced a lot of stress and strain from the time they walked in the door each evening.
It is true that working mothers have numerous obstacles to face. Learning how to manage the home front, corral children and stay on top of a work schedule is no easy task. Often times, moms need support, especially if they are new mothers with unusual circumstances.
Becoming a mother has given Armitage a greater appreciation of mothers. It is the bigger reason why she has become so involved with VCMOMS. “I just want to be the voice of encouragement to other mothers — those who are blessed with multiple births — letting them know that they’re not alone.”
Being a new mom is exhausting, but even more so when you have multiple births. “It’s not just exhausting, but it can be emotionally challenging. The responsibility of making the right decisions for a mom and your newborn babies can be daunting,” Armitage said.
Armitage encourages other mothers to embrace diversity and not to be so hard on themselves. “Don’t be afraid to be yourself,” she said.
Life-long Ventura County resident, Tori Hall is also the mother of identical twins girls. Izzi and Nickey Hall turned 4 in March. Tori is a single mom.

Tori Hall with her twin daughters.

“There is no family history of twins in either my family or my ex-husband’s, and it is safe to say I was in total shock when I found out I was having twins. I had no idea how I would adjust to that,” Hall said.
“I’m five feet three inches and very tiny. I had a lot of complications. At 20 weeks, I was put on bed rest and could not go back to work. It was a very stressful pregnancy,” said Hall. She had a medical disorder that caused her cervix to shrink during the pregnancy, and there was a serious risk she might lose fetuses.
“I ended up going through a divorce when my girls were a little over a year old. That would be hard enough with one baby, but with two … it was nothing short of exasperating, and something needed to change,” Hall said.

It takes a village

“My ex-husband and I planned on starting a family, and we were excited about it, but you’re never quite ready for double duty. Learning to go back to work and not having a partner at home was really challenging,” Hall said. It took time for Hall to find a happy medium, but she attributes any success she’s had to her “village.”
“I’m grateful for my village, which encompasses grandmothers, family members, friends, my daycare support and my ex-husband, who has been tremendously supportive,” Hall said.
Mothers today have to be more than prepared. Juggling the balance is not easy. There is pressure from the work front.
“You know, we’re supposed to be there and focused, but when your kid is home sick with a fever, it makes it hard to give 100 percent. Being a working mom is hard. I don’t even believe that women were ever made to do all of this while raising kids. It’s not an easy task. I’ve been fortunate enough to have understanding supervisors, but that’s not always the case,” Hall said. She never takes a normal lunch break. Her lunch hour consists of running errands, going to the grocery store and taking care of family-related business.
“I can’t even describe how fortunate I feel being allowed to have these two little girls.” Motherhood enthralls Hall, and she wants to take it all in and cherish each day with them.
News of the Boston bombings has been very hard for her to watch. “I can’t really watch it. That kind of sadness and loss, especially the loss of a child, is just far too overwhelming.”
Hall focuses on the here and now, realizing the impact that it will have on her kids later.
“My kids are at formidable ages. I’m always trying to teach them ways to communicate and teach them whom they can trust — like firemen, policemen or anyone in uniform like their dad, who is a tech sergeant in the Air National Guard.”
Having identical twins holds particular challenges. She strives daily to make sure her girls realize that they are distinctive and individual, and that includes her monitoring the way they dress. Hall purposefully does not dress them identically because she wants them to develop independently of each other.
“My advice for single moms — get a village. It will make life a lot easier. Don’t think you have to do this all alone. Motherhood is hard. You need help, so embrace it,” Hall said.
The mothers of the 21st century have come a long way, and there is no doubt that the grandmothers of yesterday might find the barrage of multitasking requirements a bit challenging, if not overwhelming, but there is one thing that unites the young and the old — motherhood. It is what connects all life, even in the midst of a complicated and imperfect world. It is where the imperfect is perfectly wonderful. 

Original Article:  Ventura County Reporter


Three strikes, you’re out: Voters decide the future of stringent law of life imprisonment for repeat felons

Three strikes, you're out

Three strikes, you’re out

Voters decide the future of stringent law of life imprisonment for repeat felons

By Carla Iacovetti 08/16/2012
“The law is reason free from passion.” – Aristotle

Whether one agrees with the “three strikes” law or not, it is a reality here in California. In 1994, “three strikes” was passed by the Legislature, and signed by Gov. Pete Wilson and approved by voters as a ballot initiative. While the “three strikes” law was passed as a result of several highly publicized violent crimes, it has posed a series of harsh circumstances for those who did not commit serious and or/violent crimes.

“The law doesn’t say that the current charge has to be serious,” says Kim Gibbons, a Ventura County senior deputy district attorney. “It has to be any felony if they have two serious felony convictions.”

According to the California Penal Code, section 667 (b), the three strikes law is intended to “ensure longer prison sentences and greater punishment for those who commit a felony and have been previously convicted of serious and/or violent felony offenses.” Yet many of those who have been sentenced have not committed violent crimes.

“The law has sentenced people to life imprisonment for relatively small crimes such as drug possession or petty theft,” said Michael Romano, co-founder and director of the Stanford Three Strikes Project.

Michael Romano, co-founder and director of the Stanford Three Strikes Project.

In addition to repeat offenders facing life in prison for nonviolent crimes, the sentences are doubled for prior offenders, and juvenile and out-of-state convictions also count as strikes.

Some have commended the law as being the definitive get-tough-on-crime measure, while others have been concerned with unfair and unnecessary imprisonment. Conceivably, a man who had two prior felonies could spend 25 years to life in prison for shoplifting.

“That is not a way to run a state or a criminal justice police. A life sentence for petty theft or drug possession is excessive,” Romano said.

As controversial as the law itself are the wide-ranging studies that show opposing statistics where the effectiveness of the law is concerned. Recently, the Los Angeles Times reviewed the findings of a study on the effectiveness of the three strikes law. Robert Parker, the director of the Presley Center for Crime and Justice Studies at the University of California, Riverside, said that the three-strikes law has done nothing to deter crime but has increased the state’s prison population. In fact, because of the findings, Parker claims that the three-strikes law should be repealed.

“If this very expensive policy isn’t really impacting crime, what are we doing? Why are we spending all of this money? Why are we cutting health, welfare and education repeatedly to fund an expensive system that doesn’t deliver on what its promises were?” he asked.

In 2011, an initiative for the Three Strikes Reform Act of 2012 was filed and approved by the attorney general. California Proposition 36 is scheduled to appear on the November 6 ballot as an initiative state statute with the hope of seeing the original intent of California’s three-strikes law restored. This will impose life sentences for dangerous criminals like rapists, murderers and child molesters. According to Ballotpedia, if passed, Proposition 36 will result in the following:

1.    Revise the three-strikes law to impose life sentences only when the new felony conviction is “serious or violent.”

2.    Authorize resentencing for offenders currently serving life sentences if their third strike convictions were not serious or violent and if the judge determines that the resentence does not pose unreasonable risk to public safety.

3.    Continue to impose a life sentence penalty if the third-strike conviction was for “certain non-serious, nonviolent sex or drug offenses or involved firearm possession.”

4.    Maintain the life sentence penalty for felons with “non-serious, nonviolent third strike if prior convictions were for rape, murder or child molestation.”

The issue in question seems to be related to the types of felonies committed. The way the law is now, any felony can send an offender to a long-term prison sentence. According to Gibbons, the district attorney’s office is required to file, no matter what the offense. Even so, there is a process that goes something like this: Once the DA’s office files, then the defendant is arraigned in court, or in some cases there will be a grand jury hearing, and the grand jury might issue an indictment.

“At a preliminary hearing, the DA’s office will produce evidence (police and civilian), and the judge decides if there’s enough evidence to hold a trial,” Gibbons said. “We have to produce probable cause at the preliminary trial.”

If the proposed initiative goes through, those prior felons who commit nonviolent felonies like shoplifting and drug possession will not receive a life sentence, but they will receive twice the normal sentence.

A lot of times, the defendant will plead guilty if some of the priors are stricken. In most cases, judges will strike in more than one prior. For example, suppose a criminal has committed two residential burglaries in the past, and now he’s charged with grand theft in the amount of $950 or more. If the defendant has one serious prior felony, chances are he will not be facing 25 years to life; but instead of the normal three-year sentence, he will get six years.

“The judge has a choice of giving the defendant 16 months, two years or three years,” Gibbons said.

Every prior felon sentenced in this way has a probation report prepared by a probation officer. These reports are very thorough, and judges make decisions based on the probation report and the nature of the crime or crimes. The judge will know from the report what the defendant has done and his/her history, and if the person is guilty, the judge will determine whether he/she will go to trial and what the sentence will be.

“Everyone charged with a crime has the right to choose a jury or not,” Gibbons said. “Most people charged with a crime actually plead guilty — about 90 percent of them.”
It is important to note that while three strikes can present serious consequences for a felon, in the interest of justice, a judge may dismiss a strike.

Population explosion?

Is the three-strikes law causing a population explosion within many of our state prisons? Back in June of 2010, the California state prison population included 32,479 second-strikers and 8,647 third-strikers. Since “strike” sentences can by initiated by any felony conviction, a number of prisoners are serving lengthy life sentences for various nonviolent crimes like stolen property, petty theft and possession of a controlled substance. Since the law was passed in 1994, approximately 8,800 prisoners have been sentenced to life terms in California under the three-strikes law.

According Families to Amend California’s Three Strikes (FACTS), excessive incarceration in America is a problem, and California is leading the parade with locking up more people than ever, especially with additional “tough-on-crime” laws. The result? FACTS said we are experiencing a “prison-building boom and rapacious bargaining” by the prison guards union, with state penitentiaries becoming the fastest-growing major cost in the state budget. The concerns have continued with consequential cutbacks on school and university funding, and the state’s recurring budget crisis.

Prison overcrowding is another concern, with the 2011 United States Supreme Court ruling that California must reduce its imprisoned population to reinstate humane conditions. With a population of 156,000, the prison population was nearly double the system’s capacity.

Because of severe overcrowding, prisons in California have to set up bunks in the gymnasiums in order to house all of the inmates.

The Stanford Three Strikes Project claims that approximately 9,000 inmates have been incarcerated for their third-strike crimes, and more than 4,000 inmates are serving life sentences for nonviolent crimes. California’s Legislative Analyst’s Office estimates an average cost of $47,000 a year per inmate.

In his book Long Walk To Freedom, Nelson Mandela writes, “It is said that no one really knows a nation until one has been inside its jails. A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones.” Because of overcrowding, inmates have continued to file lawsuits against prisons, claiming that prison overcrowding violates the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. Along with overcrowding, there are other conditions that the courts have focused on, such as sanitation, safety and medical care provided by the correctional facility. Each prison is governed by either the federal government or the individual state, and guided by the American Correctional Association (ACA). For more than 135 years, the ACA has been the acknowledged authority in establishing measurable standards in prison supervision and providing certification of facilities after a scrupulous audit and review of proof of practice for conformity.

In California, three prisons began the process of seeking accreditation from the ACA: The California State Prison – Sacramento, Central California Women’s Facility, and California State Prison – Solano. All three prisons met all 61 of the mandatory requirements. California’s Department of Corrections and Rehabilitations (CDCR) intends to pursue accreditation for all of its facilities. The audits are scheduled to begin in February 2013.

“The accreditation of all CDCR facilities will ensure we achieve our goal of modeling correctional leadership and complying with national best practices,” said CDCR Undersecretary Terri McDonald.

It’s complicated

With some of the largest correctional institutions in America, there is no doubt that we have woven a tangled web here in California, and now realignment will move tens of thousands of prisoners who are considered low risk into county jails. If an inmate is on good behavior, he or she will be given the chance to serve only half of his or her sentence as opposed to the required two-thirds.

According to FACTS, “Inmates already doing time in a state prison will stay there, but since October, anybody in California who commits a new crime that is non-serious, nonviolent and nonsexual (or “non-non-non”) has been sent to a county jail instead of prison.”

A study by the California Department of Corrections found that third-strikers jailed for non-serious, nonviolent crimes were the least dangerous inmates. According to Romano, “Giving them a way out of jail would leave more room for higher-risk inmates.”

Growing concerns

Has the three-strikes law actually discouraged crime? Based on Parker’s study, The Los Angeles Times said the law is “costly and ineffective” and further claimed that it has “done nothing to deter crime despite expanding the state’s prison population.” The former state parole chairman, Assemblyman Jim Nielsen (R-Gerber), disagreed with the study’s findings and believes the three-strikes law has been successful.

Many of those who oppose the reformed three-strikes law are concerned with issues like violating the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution, criminals being allowed to plea-bargain their first two convictions, the law interfering with the flexibility of the courts and the judges, and the law adding more criminals to an overcrowded and expensive prison system.

Those in favor of the amendment believe it will address a flawed judicial system, where too many nonviolent and non-serious offenders stay in prison. The law offers an effectual deterrent after a second conviction, and the law applies only to three convictions, not marginal cases. Usually, when the three strikes law is applied, it affects those who have actually committed more than three crimes.

In its purest form, the three-strikes law is primarily about deterrence. When this law first came into play, it was a response to several high-profile murders committed by ex-felons. The most notorious case was the kidnapping and strangling of 12-year-old Polly Klaas in 1993. With current issues like overcrowding and the high cost of housing an inmate, it seems as though a modification is in order. Last month a Field Poll was taken in California addressing its prison-overcrowding problem. The poll confirmed that 79 percent of those surveyed believed the matter to be serious. According to the Committee for Three Strikes Reform, “Most California voters see a court order to reduce the state prison population by 30,000 inmates as a serious problem, and nearly three out of four say it’s time to revamp the state’s three-strikes law.”

Original Article: http://www.vcreporter.com/cms/story/detail/?id=10092

Violent and serious felonies according to California statutesVIOLENT FELONIES

Murder or manslaughter.


Rape by force, violence, duress, menace or fear of immediate bodily injury on the victim or another person.

Oral copulation by force, violence, duress, menace or fear of immediate bodily injury on the victim or another person.

Lewd act on a child.

Any felony punishable by death or life sentence.

Any felony resulting in great bodily injury or in which a firearm was used.

Robbery of an inhabited dwelling, vessel or trailer coach in which a deadly or dangerous weapon was used.

Arson that causes great bodily injury.

Penetration by a foreign object.

Attempted murder.

Explosion with intent to commit murder.

Out-of-state kidnapping transported to California.

Continuous sexual abuse of a child.


Murder or involuntary manslaughter.


Sodomy by force, violence, duress, menace or fear of immediate bodily injury on the victim or another person.

Oral copulation by force, violence, duress, menace or fear of immediate bodily injury on the victim or another person.

Lewd or lascivious act on a child under the age of 14 years.

Any felony punishable by death or imprisonment for life.

Any other felony in which the defendant personally inflicts great bodily injury on any person or personally uses a firearm.

Attempted murder.

Assault with intent to commit rape or robbery.

Assault with a deadly weapon or instrument on a peace officer.

Assault by a life prisoner on a non-inmate.

Assault with a deadly weapon by an inmate.


Exploding a destructive device or any explosive with intent to injure.

Exploding a destructive device or any explosive causing great bodily injury or mayhem.

Exploding a destructive device or any explosive with intent to murder.

Burglary of an inhabited dwelling, house or trailer coach as defined by the Vehicle Code or inhabited portion of any other building.

Robbery or bank robbery.


Holding of a hostage by a person confined in a state prison.

Attempt to commit a felony punishable by death or life imprisonment.

Any felony in which the defendant personally used a dangerous or deadly weapon selling, furnishing, administering, giving or offering to sell, furnish administer or give to a minor, heroin, cocaine, phencyclidine (PCP), a methamphetamine-related drug, or a precursor of methamphetamine.

Any violation of subdivision (a) of Section 289 where the act is accomplished against the victim’s will by force, violence, duress, menace, or fear of immediate and unlawful bodily injury on the victim or another person.

Grand theft involving a firearm.

Any attempt to commit a crime listed in this subdivision other than an assault.
Continuous sexual abuse of a child.

Taken from http://www.threestrikes.org/tscrimes.html.

Shaked, Stirred, or Poured: Drinking Trends in Ventura County -Ventura County Reporter – Dining Guide 2012

Ventura County Reporter – Dining Guide 2012.

My latest article on the drinking trends in Ventura County! (Go to pages 12 & 16)

Internet promiscuity breeds a new kind of sexual revolution

Sensory Overload?

Local teacher’s porn star past sparks debate about the industry, teenage sexual proclivity

By Carla Iacovetti 03/29/2012

“In America sex is an obsession, in other parts of the world it is a fact.”
—Marlene Dietrich
(German actress – 1901-1992)

America has been in a sexual revolution since the ’60s and some believe it is rapidly increasing, especially with the unlimited access to sexually graphic sites on the Internet.  While there is no doubt that through the Internet, pornography has become more accessible, it has actually been a part of society through the ages.
Erotica is not anything new. A recent article published on LiveScience.com says, “Whichever way you slice it, the diversity of pornographic materials throughout history suggests that human beings have always been interested in images of sex. Lots and lots of sex.”
Even though sexual promiscuity and pornography have been around for centuries, can we hold the Internet accountable for today’s current sexual trends? While sex is perfectly natural, some believe that pornography of any kind takes it out of the realm of being natural and can open up the door for addictive behavior. In addition, the accessibility on the Internet is creating a whirlwind of issues.
A recent situation that has gained national attention revolves around 31-year-old Stacie Halas, a seventh-grade science teacher at Richard B. Haydock Intermediate School in Oxnard. She was recently placed on paid leave after some students reported seeing her in X-rated video clips on the Internet, and administrators at the school shortly thereafter discovered said images. Halas went by the alias “Tiffany Six”; she pursued a career in adult entertainment six years ago in San Diego.



Seventh-grade science teacher Stacie Halas was put on paid leave when students discovered her X-rated video clips on the internet from her stint in the adult film industry six years ago.


Should a teacher who worked as a porn star be dismissed?

This incident has created controversy here in Ventura County. There are some who believe her removal is unjust and uncalled-for. This is something she did in her private time — before she was ever a teacher — and has nothing to do with her professional teaching career or her ability to teach. In a similar situation, former gay porn-star-turned-teacher Shawn Loftis was  fired by the Miami-Dade district when administrators found his sexually explicit pictures on the Internet in August 2011. The state, however, allowed Loftis to teach again in Florida. The content of Halas’ alleged porn video, on the other hand, constituted a cause for concern for some.
“We were shocked. … I saw parts of the video. It’s hard-core pornography,” said Oxnard School District Superintendent Jeff Chancer. There is a possibility that Halas is in more than one video, too. Chancer has asked parents with children attending Haydock Intermediate School to be very observant of their children’s Internet and cell phone activities.
Whether or not Halas will actually lose her job remains to be seen. After a closed session meeting with the school board last week, the board president released this statement:
“Direction was given to legal counsel regarding the discipline of a certificated employee and no action was taken in closed session. We know that there is considerable interest in our situation at Haydock Intermediate School. However, we respect the privacy of our employees and the Board Members and staff cannot comment on this matter
other than what is reported out of closed session.”
The issue at hand is still a very delicate one, as administrators discuss Halas’ future in correlation with the California Education Code.
“In a situation like this, possible consequences could lead to job termination and eventually the loss of a teaching credential,” said Stanley Mantooth, superintendent of Ventura County Board of Education. California Education Code, sections 44932 and 44933, spell out the grounds for dismissal or suspension of a credentialed employee. These sections list things like immoral or unprofessional conduct and evidence of being unfit for service.
Halas remains on paid administrative leave while the case is under investigation. Haydock Intermediate is a part of Oxnard School District, and the district is working closely with legal counsel to decide whether to move forward with a termination. Well-known feminist attorney Gloria Allred is representing Halas and had no comment.


Anytime, anywhere

With porn so easily accessible, is it as addictive as, let’s say, cocaine? Are Americans now on sexual overdrive? Some say no, that many Americans have always had issues with sex.
“All these issues were present before the Internet,” said licensed marriage and family therapist/certified sex therapist Jacqueline Richard of Ventura. “Pornography has been around forever, but the difference is that the Internet makes everything, including porn, much more accessible to us.
“Watching pornography can be extremely stimulating, depending on the individual. This level of stimulation can change our neurochemistry in ways similar to other kinds of excitement or arousal, not just similar to that caused by stimulating drugs,” Richard continued. “Some people are more prone to addiction or compulsivity than others, whether it’s substances such as drugs and alcohol, or whether it’s to other processes such as gambling or pornography. For the addicted, there is an ever-increasing need to increase the level of intensity in order to achieve the same effect, much like the need for more and more addictive drugs. For others, there doesn’t appear to be this need. Not everyone who views pornography becomes addicted.”
The accessibility of the Internet has taken porn viewing to a new level. Before the Internet, viewing porn was more complicated and secretive. Times have changed, however. Authors Ogi Ogas and Sai Gaddam, in their book A Billion Wicked Thoughts — a book that shows a billion worldwide web searches, revealing the way the Internet has changed things — show that the Internet is revolutionizing sexual desires.
Part of that change has to do with two things: accessibility and sexual triggers. A sexual trigger, according to Phil Brewer, Ed.D., a licensed marriage and family therapist and emergency room psychologist, is a commonly used term today that refers to stimuli that can trigger behavior, aggravate or promote addictions and vulnerabilities. Brewer said that when a young boy views hard-core porn, it can cause a cognitive imprinting and arousal of prurient nature.
Whenever one engages in sexual activity, the brain releases a tidal wave of endorphins, which produce a chemical high. The authors of A Billion Wicked Thoughts found that online porn has changed sexual desire; where men once did not have such easy access to triggers that promote sexual addictions, now they do. “Web porn has changed everything,” Gaddaam said.
These sexual triggers may be cause for concern when considering how a teenage boy might handle sitting in a classroom taught by a teacher whom he has seen on the Internet engaging in hard-core porn.
“Young boys with raging hormones will be titillated by this kind of thing,” Mantooth said. Chancer said he hopes that this situation sends a very strong message to parents about monitoring children’s Internet activity — via both the computer and smart phone.



World-renowned porn king Ron Jeremy dislikes how the Internet has morphed the adult industry and believes that there is a dark side to it.

World-renowned porn king Ron Jeremy (with more than 2,000 porn videos under his belt) dislikes how the Internet has morphed the adult entertainment industry.
“The world of porn is changing immensely because of the Internet,” he said. “We now create our own movies and show them to the neighbors. Everybody is a porn star.” He said that he also believes that no child younger than 18 should ever be exposed to porn. Few would argue that any child should ever be exposed to porn. It’s not adults, however, who are making such decisions for their children. Instead, adolescents are choosing to check various websites behind their parents’ backs.
Ben Marshall has been serving as youth pastor at Reality Church for the past four to five years, and he has observed an increase in the number of youths who are getting hooked on porn.
“Viewing this stuff takes away kids’ innocence and creates a stronger desire to experiment sexually,” he said. “I know of boys who have contacted girls via Facebook to discuss sex. They create a time and place to experiment with each other, and then they go home and never speak to each other again. With the Internet, you don’t have to feel shame. You can speak to someone boldly without any barriers. It’s creating open experimentation for all kinds of sexual experiences. Kids are being exposed to things that they shouldn’t ever be exposed to. Once a kid starts this stuff, it opens up Pandora’s box; and once that happens, it can become a serious problem that can affect someone’s entire life.”
A 2009 CyberSentinel poll recorded that many 13- to 16-year-olds spend almost two hours a week viewing pornography, and 11 is the average age at which a child is first exposed to Internet porn. In a recent article published in Psychology Today, porn may be seen as an increasing problem in young men from all cultures: “Desperate young men from various cultures, with different levels of education, religiosity, attitudes, values, diets, marijuana use and personalities, are seeking help. They have only two things in common: heavy use of today’s Internet porn and increasing need for more extreme material.”
Many of these young men began viewing porn on the Internet in their early teens, according to those who have studied the subject, and sometimes the need for more extreme material arises. Teenage boys seem to be particularly susceptible to pornography’s seductive lure. In the book Kids Online, author Donna Rice Hughes shares the following: “The male’s hydraulic sex system and the exterior genitals keep him more aware of his sexual feelings than the typical female is. His ejaculation pattern, once begun, will continue, and his psychosocial sexual appetite tends to be fully developed within 36 months after that first ejaculation. The porn market, therefore exploits this normal development of male sexuality, with the tragic effect that addiction to pornography tends to desensitize the male, such that a bonded heterosexual relationship is not only unlikely to develop, but the genuine relationship with one exclusive person is not even desired.”
In the case of Halas, the main issue doesn’t seem to be the fact that she did porn; the issue is that students discovered her. Given the amount of testosterone running through a male adolescent’s body, will a young man have the maturity and the presence of mind not to continue looking at porn once he is exposed to it? That also raises the question, how much of the burden should a former porn star bear for the choices of his or her students?
“Moral turpitude involves conduct that is considered contrary to community standards of justice, honesty or good morals,” Mantooth said. “This is the kind of thing that can ruin a teacher’s credibility and titillate young middle-school-age kids who have raging hormones.”
Mantooth further stated, however, that he believes that it is ultimately up to the parents to be on top of things, instilling core values into their children. “If it’s not porn, it will be violence or bullying. In today’s world, kids need to have family values of the highest caliber fostered by their parents.”



Former gay porn-star-turned-teacher Shawn Loftis was fired from Miami-Dade school district, however, the state of Florida allowed him to teach again.

“Based on my personal experience in counseling,” Marshall said, “I would say that Internet porn is the number 1 or number 2 problem with high-school-age boys today. Not everyone is going to become an addict, but most high-school-age boys are having interaction with it on a fairly regular basis.”
Some consider the Internet to be a virtual sexual playground for some adolescent boys with budding hormones and curiosity.
“Adolescent boys have historically sought out information about sex through friends, family members and pornography, hoping that this knowledge will fulfill their new-found curiosity and urges,” said Alexandra Katehakis, the founder and clinical director of the Center for Healthy Sex in Los Angeles and the author of Erotic Intelligence. “But in today’s digital world, most adolescents turn to porn for answers — and pleasure — and when porn becomes an adolescent boy’s primary mode of sexual education, it can be harmful to his brain’s development.”

Changing attitudes on porn

In a recent survey on the Internet Filter Review site, “40 million Americans visit Internet porn sites at least once a month.” In 2008, Nielson Online showed that 25 percent of employees here in the United States access porn from the workplace.
Ventura resident Ryan Gleason, who works in the Internet advertising industry, shared what he believes is a widely perceived perspective on pornography.
“Many believe porn is an infringement on a private, intimate, sacred act covenanted by a creative force — God; but that is only an opinion,” he said. “I’m not sure that it’s really a moral issue. Addiction to anything is another issue altogether, and when it comes to youth viewing it, they don’t have the capacity to process and understand what they’re watching. They shouldn’t be watching porn.”
Paul, a local man in his mid-30s, does not see Internet porn as that big an issue. “I actually don’t know one guy over 25 who is not, at some level, viewing Internet porn. It’s just the way the world’s flyin’ today. … Yup, everybody’s doin’ it — women too!”


Too much of anything is not a good thing

Famed author and feminist Erica Jong says, “If you have too many sweets, you feel sick. If everything is allowed, you don’t crave it anymore. Explicit sex can become boring in the end — hence the theory that people have to ratchet up the degrees of porn they watch, to find it sexy — with disturbing effects on society as a whole.”
“The Internet is exactly like nuclear energy,” Jeremy said. “Nuclear energy is clean. It can actually be good, but you can also make a bomb out of it. There are so many things that can be used for good, but they also have a real dark side. The Internet is much the same.”
While sexual revolutions may continue, and the Internet is surely not going away, the fact that we are living in an age where sexual expression may be at an all-time high should prod us all to be aware of how viewing porn affects us and its apparent addictive qualities. Perhaps now is also a good time to start talking about the effects of viewing porn with our teenagers instead of seemingly continuing to ignore the issue.
“Part of the sexual revolution is bringing rationality to sexuality — because when you don’t embrace sexuality in a normal way, you get the twisted kinds, and the kinds that destroy lives.” — Hugh Hefner, NPR interview, Sept. 6, 2003.

Original Article:


Michael Sullivan contributed to this article.



Helping Hearts and hands: The gift of giving in Ventura County

Helping hearts and hands
The gift of giving in Ventura County

By Carla Iacovetti 11/24/2010

“The test of a civilization is in the way that it cares for its helpless members.”
– Pearl S. Buck

Throughout the ages, there have always been individuals in societies who were concerned with promoting good will toward men. While this mind set has been prevalent in Western civilization, its origin can be traced back to Greece, Egypt and the ancient Middle East, and was often prodded by religious beliefs. Plato’s will stated that his farm should be left to his nephew, with instructions that the proceeds be used to help support students and faculty members at the academy he had founded. Charitable giving has evolved through a medley of cultural influences. More traditionally, philanthropy can be traced to Judaism, where one-tenth of a person’s income or harvest was put into a storehouse to help those in need. During the sixth century, this idea was carried over into the Christian church, seen with the practice of financial giving and stewardship. While plenty of non-Christian philanthropists have been committed to benevolence, American charities had often some Christian alliance, and the effects have influenced western philanthropic tradition.

Andrew Carnegie, who wrote a famous essay on the history of American philanthropy entitled The Gospel of Wealth, largely influenced philanthropy in America. In his essay, Carnegie spoke favorably about American democratic capitalism and his belief that capitalism would help empower ordinary men and women to become active within their communities. Carnegie was instrumental in providing the financial means to help build nearly 2,000 libraries throughout the United States.

In his book Inside American Philanthropy: The Dramas of Donorship, Waldemar A. Nielson says, “Donors on the whole are revered figures in the American context. Yet, oddly enough, they tend to become the forgotten factor in American philanthropy. Their fundamental role and special characteristics are often displaced by the changing outlooks of successive generations of their trustees, and even more by the preoccupation of staff professionals responsive to changing academic, intellectual and social trends.”

Whatever the reasons behind altruism, it is clear that philanthropy has had a wide-ranging span of influence here in America that has shifted somewhat over the years, and its effects can be seen everywhere.

In Ventura County, a number of organizations continue to give support to charitable causes. Habitat for Humanity is a nonprofit organization that seeks to help low-income families get homes. Stacy Swanson, the executive director for the Ventura County chapter, says, “We identify a family that is suitable for a home that we’re building.” Habitat for Humanity looks for low-income families that are living in a substandard condition, such as living in a car or garage.

Volunteers partner with the low-income family, which is required to invest 500 hours of labor – “sweat equity” – into building their home and the homes of others. Once a house is built, it is sold to the low-income family at no profit without any interest charged.

Even in a depressed economy, it is common knowledge that home ownership lends itself to stability and a lot of other assets within a community. Swanson says, “Property taxes help a community, and Habitat for Humanity helps families who ordinarily would never be able to own a home become an asset to the community.”

“There’s such a huge housing need here in Ventura County, we are only a piece of a very large puzzle,” he says.

Habitat for Humanity of Ventura County is a Christian-based organization that utilizes Christian principles in its approach to charity. For example, as an affiliate of Habitat for Humanity International, it gives 10 percent of its donations to an affiliate in Malawi, Africa. “While there are no religious restrictions as to the people that we assist and build a house for, the idea of giving back 10 percent to another affiliate organization in Malawi is rooted in Judeo-Christian principles,” Swanson says.

Construction is funded through the generosity of donors. Habitat for Humanity counts on the generosity of individual donors and philanthropic organizations to step forward with financial help. St. Maximilian Kolbe Catholic Church in Westlake Village is currently sponsoring one of the houses. Another house that is presently being built in Thousand Oaks was sponsored by Los Robles Hospital’s parent company, Healthcare Corporation of America (HCA). Swanson says, “Los Robles Hospital is a very engaged sponsor. They send volunteers out and are involved in what’s going on with Habitat for Humanity here in Ventura County.”

Fundraisers have become a very popular way for charities to raise money for their causes. For example, on Oct. 14, a benefit concert at the Ventura Theater for Habitat for Humanity featured Los Lobos.

With a grass-roots beginning, Habitat for Humanity was conceived by Millard and Linda Fuller. Millard was a millionaire who gave away everything and started over. He believed that everyone deserved a home. Even though this organization has taken more of a corporate role today, Swanson says, “It’s still very much hands-on.”

Recently, nearly 40 billionaires signed the 2010 Giving Pledge, designed by world-renowned philanthropists Warren Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates. The pledge is an invitation to America’s wealthiest to commit to giving the majority of their wealth for needy causes. This pledge has provoked some rethinking among humanitarians and nonprofits as to the best way to see lasting success and the best way to bring about change through giving.

Ventura County Community Foundation (VCCF) is a family of charitable funds created by citizens who care deeply about strengthening the community, preserving and expanding its cultural resources, and helping those in need. Hugh Ralston, the president and CEO of VCCF, says that a “paradigm shift” has occurred within the philanthropic world, and this shift is definitely related to what has happened in our economy. “This paradigm shift is probably exemplified most in the Gates Foundation, where they are tackling issues like reform and malaria,” he says.

Donors today are trying to figure out where the new normal is.

Economically and as a country, America is undergoing profound changes. The impact of the Internet alone has completely altered the business world, especially as consumers increasingly purchase things over the Internet. With this shift, donors now have to think much more creatively.

The opportunity through community philanthropy is immense. Ralston says, “We need to focus on developing strategies and answers for our own community.” Most of problems stem from larger problems. Problems like 100,000 people in our country that are food-insecure, and the number of children now on Medicaid. These problems have been on the rise for the last 50 years. Ventura County is no different. It is a broadly diverse community, and now it is dealing with things that have been in the works for many years.

Ralston says, “It is a time of great ferment, and we are committed to keeping this kind of collaboration alive. It’s a time where the community can truly help.”

No doubt the mindset of giving has evolved with time. Claudia Armann, the executive director for the McCune Foundation, says, “While a lot of corporations today have foundations, about 75 percent of philanthropy in this country is ‘still’ being donated by individuals! Foundations make up about 13 percent of charitable contributions, 7 percent are bequests and only 5 percent are corporations. In short, everyone’s donation counts.”

George D. McCune and Sara Miller McCune established the McCune Foundation in 1990, with the mission to be an agent of productive change in society by supporting the growth of the social capitals within a community.

The McCune Foundation is focused on building capital in both Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties. Armann says, “We are not traditional philanthropists.” The foundation funds organizations that are focused on systemic change, groups that want to see certain issues changed at the root — issues like a transportation act to assist low-income people in Santa Barbara.

In Ventura County, the McCune Foundation works with CAUSE (Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy), which stands for social justice, and works with local organizations and individuals to bring about the changes that are needed within a community.

Armann says, “The approach that we like to take is to build the power of the people who have been marginalized — building social capital.”

Global Resource Alliance Inc. (GRA) is an all-volunteer 501(c)3, nonprofit organization located in Ojai. With a background in manufacturing and finance, Lyn Hebensteit founded GRA in April 2002 to assist community groups with financial and technical support in the Lake Victoria region of Tanzania. GRA pursues a natural, holistic and sustainable approach to poverty by educating local communities and encouraging them to address necessary social, economic and ecological challenges.

Hebensteit says, “Poverty isn’t cheap, and it takes a lot of effort.” He believes that solutions already exist in nature.

GRA looks to permaculture instead of genetically modified solutions. GRA’s approach to poverty is different than that of other charities, like the Gates Foundation, which is more technologically and scientifically driven. In addition, GRA is a much smaller organization, with a lot of donations coming from individual sources instead of larger foundations.

The word “permaculture” was first used in 1978 by Australian ecologist Bill Mollison to describe permanent agriculture.

While the relationship with sustainable agriculture and designing ecologically human habitats is paramount, permaculture involves much more than housing and food production. “Permaculture designs have the same diversity, stability and resilience of natural ecosystems,” Hebensteit says. “Permaculture is a hot topic right now, especially in Ventura. In fact, Santa Barbara City College has classes that you can take as a part of a career focus in permaculture.”

Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Ventura County (BBBS) is part of a 501(c)3 nonprofit national youth mentoring organization that was started more than 100 years ago by Ernest Coulter, a New York City court clerk who was concerned about the boys he saw come through his courtroom. He believed many of those boys would have stayed out of trouble with encouragement and a good example from caring adults, and so he began the search for volunteers.

BBBS’s chief officer, Terri Felix, says, “This is a preventative organization, with a goal to match a friend with these children as a mentor – someone who is a good listener and a great role model so we can help give the children quality attention and positive guidance.” Because BBBS is staffed with social workers, and background checks are run on every potential volunteer, we are able to have qualified, controlled guidance coming from trained professionals.”

This organization works side by side with foster care, and has more than 400 agencies throughout the United States. Coulter’s vision is still very much in play, as the mission of this organization is to help children between the ages of 6 and 18 to reach their potential through professionally supported one-on-one relationships.

Felix says, “From the philanthropy side of things, money comes from several ways. We have four major fundraising events annually, donors that make yearly contributions, grant funding, corporate money, grants from corporations and estate money. We get wonderful support from various sources.”

Last month, the Ojai Peace Coalition presented its 2010 Noble Peace Prize to the Ojai Valley Defense Fund, founded by Dr. John Broesamle. Broesamle, former president of the Ojai Valley Land Conservancy and former history professor at California State University, Northridge, speaks to various public and private high schools about the changes that have been instrumental in transforming America over the last century. Previous honorees are Clive and Marion Leeman of the Ojai Peace Vigil, Tara Blasco and Lyn Hebenstreit of the Global Resource Alliance, and Sally Carless of Global Village School.

Giving is something that is a part of American heritage, and it is vital for community existence today and tomorrow.

It is not simply a nice thought, but a mind set that promotes human welfare, and it is a building block for healthy future generations. While diversity within philanthropic organizations is vast, charity has no boundaries. Sir Francis Bacon, in his 1625 essay Of Goodness, and Goodness of Nature, says, “In charity there is no excess.”


Link to the original article published in Ventura County Reporter:  8402

Pop goes the cupcake


Pop goes the cupcake!

Tracking one of the country’s sweetest culinary trends

By Carla Iacovetti 09/02/2010

Like any other trend in popular culture, there are attitudes, ideas and perspectives within the American mainstream that shift with each generation. With interest in the culinary arts taking the country by storm, the long-standing cupcake is experiencing renewed significance — with every little mouthful of delectable sweetness, it’s becoming its own movement within the baking industry.

Author Amelia Simmons mentioned “cakes baked in small cups” in The First American Cookbook: A Facsimile of American Cookery (1776). Cupcakes have always been a part of America’s evolving culinary history, and one can walk into most bakeries anywhere and find an assortment of tempting cupcakes, iced with a variety of colors, themes and flavors. The diversity is endless, and even though cupcakes have been around for a long time, their popularity has exploded since the mid-’90s, and a number of people left high-paying, high-profile careers to pursue the humble cake.

Clinical child psychologist Jennifer Appel left her practice and opened up Magnolia Bakery in New York City, which became famous when Sarah Jessica Parker took a bite out of a pink-frosted cupcake on an episode of Sex and the City.

David Arrick, a former asset securities attorney who was with a major law firm on Wall Street, founded Butch Bakeries in New York after deciding, “It was time to combine a masculine aesthetic [with] a traditionally cute product — the cupcake,” according to his website. His inspiration was a magazine that described cupcakes as a “combination of everything pink, sweet, cute and magical.” Ironically, most of his buyers are women.

Here on the West Coast, executive pastry chef Candace Nelson, the founder of Sprinkles Cupcakes, left her career in investment banking and opened the world’s first cupcake bakery in Beverly Hills, inspiring cupcake bakers across the United States. Recently, the Los Angeles Times referred to Sprinkles as the “progenitor of the haute cupcake craze.”

From coast to coast and in Ventura County, the cute little cupcake has been reinvented. Cupcake bakeries are springing up everywhere and putting smiles on the faces of many. Lynette Duncan and her daughter Lisa Kraus-Rayner (a trained pastry chef) got inspired back in 2005 in New York City, and opened up Cupcakery in Thousand Oaks less than two years ago. Duncan says, “We wanted to do something old-fashioned, classic — just like good old grandma used to make!” While Cupcakery is charming and feminine, Duncan says, “Guys come in all the time and buy our cute little cupcakes, and leave with a smile on their face.”

Happily, the sliding economy hasn’t affected them much. Duncan says, “It’s not like it’s a huge ticket item, so perhaps that’s why we haven’t seen the impact. There are always birthday parties and reasons to celebrate. We’re even doing cupcake weddings!”

Why the fascination with cupcakes? Duncan says, “Cupcakes are cute, individual and nostalgic, and you don’t have to share them with anyone.”

Shortly after the Cupcakery opened up, Ventura’s Jenn Barry, who was “raised to bake,” started a cupcake delivery service called Barrycakes. Barry says, “I love to bake. I love things chic and trendy, so I think I have a pretty good handle on the pulse in this industry. Many of my cupcakes have a theme in keeping with Ventura.”

Barry makes everything from scratch and prefers the glamour end of things. Chocolate curls instead of sprinkles, fresh produce and quality ingredients help to spawn her creativity. Barry enjoys taking people back to happy moments.

A new addition to Ventura County’s growing list of cupcake bakeries is Cupcakes in Wonderland. With a love of gourmet baking and a commitment to using only natural ingredients, Debora and Blaire O’Donnell are a mother-daughter team that makes every bite “wonderful.” Debora says, “Sprinkles in Beverly Hills helped fuel our inspiration, but my daughter and I have always had an obsession with cupcakes.”

Currently a natural gourmet delivery-based bakery, Cupcakes in Wonderland caters to all different kinds of needs, including vegan/gluten-free cupcakes. Debora says, “We’ve even been interviewed by Cupcake Wars on the Food Network, which was really exciting!”

Sugar Bears Cupcake Shack, a gourmet cupcake retail bakery that recently opened in downtown Ventura is quickly gaining a reputation for its haute recipes. “I can tell you that Ventura seems to be ripe for a retail cupcake business, says owner Steve Tobey, who also owns the We Olive specialty foods store. Executive baker Kayla Hernandez has a background in culinary arts with a specialty in baking.  Her staff is made of graduates of Ventura High School’s culinary arts program. Tobey says, “This is another way for us to be a part of the community.”

Hernandez and her staff are very creative, taking cupcake baking to a new level by offering a wide variety of epicurean cupcakes, including the Lime on Da CocoBear gluten-free coconut cupcake, with tropical whipped lime frosting and shredded coconut.

“I don’t think cupcakes are fading out anytime soon,” says Tobey. “The Mintel Reports projected that there would be a 20 percent increase from 2009 over the next five years in this industry, and so far they’ve been right.”

The impressionable child: Divorce battles and their influence on children