Firefighter’s widow denied funds

first_imgToday, Groff’s widow, Christine Wells-Groff of Santa Rosa, is expected to file a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court in her quest to receive the death benefits her husband had assumed would be provided. So far, one federal court judge ruled that she was entitled to the federal Public Safety Officer Benefits that survivors of government employees receive. But an appellate judge later overturned that decision. At issue is whether thousands of contract employees who undertake dangerous duty on behalf of California taxpayers should be entitled to the same benefits as government employees. “Everyone else has given up after their first denial, but I feel very strongly about this as an issue,” said Wells-Groff. “I’ve already spent more than anything I would receive back. I’ve mortgaged my house to pay for attorneys in this six-year, six-figure battle. This is for the others now.” Groff was flying a state-operated air tanker that day and even wearing a California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection uniform. Nonetheless, he was a contract employee, and legal experts say there’s only a slim chance the high court will even review the case, much less reverse the appellate court. The benefits program, started by Congress in 1976 to help recruit and retain public-safety workers, includes a lump-sum payoff to survivors of federal, state or local government employees killed in the line of duty, as well as ongoing benefits in some cases. Wells-Groff’s suit has been filed against the federal government since it administers the program and, in this case, denied the claim for benefits. U.S. Justice Department attorneys have sought to clearly label survivor benefits as being only for direct government employees, citing multimillion-dollar costs of making any broader definition. Why, they argue, should taxpayers finance benefits for employees working under contract to the government? But Michael Brook, Wells-Groff’s Santa Rosa attorney, argues otherwise. “When Congress enacted this, it was seen to help with morale and recruitment and was a small token of public appreciation for the risks these people face,” he said. “Contract employees face the same dangers as they protect the public.” But if they die, they are covered only by the contract companies’ life-insurance programs, which pay far less. Wells-Groff, 49, got a life insurance award of $50,000 through her husband’s employer, San Joaquin Helicopters, but no ongoing benefits. Public-safety officers’ benefits would have entitled her to a lump sum of about $250,000, plus ongoing benefits. Contractors’ death benefits are limited, government and union officials contend, because the firms are trying to squeeze as much profit as possible out of government pacts. Contractors who were contacted about the matter declined to comment. Associated Airtanker Pilots, a group that represents the tanker pilots, says that since 1958 more than 160 aerial firefighters have been killed while on duty. After Groff’s death, the state Legislature approved providing death benefits comparable to those received by government-paid firefighters and public safety workers for pilots working under contract with the CDF. But that law came too late to help Groff’s family. And despite the pleas, congressional proposals to extend government-worker survivor benefits to contract pilots have been opposed by the U.S. Forest Service. The thin line between being a government employee and a contract employee doing government work seemed to be especially important to a federal claims court judge, Lynn Bush, who handed Wells-Groff her initial victory back in July 2006. “Groff was officially recognized as being functionally within the California Department of Forestry,” the judge wrote, and was “serving a public agency in an official capacity.” She also noted that “survivors of some nongovernmental employees were awarded (government death) benefits during the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.” But in July of this year, a federal appellate court overturned her decision, saying Congress essentially remained silent on whether contract employees would be included in survivor benefits. The Justice Department has interpreted that to mean they are not. Now it may be the Supreme Court’s turn to weigh in – and possibly Wells-Groff’s last chance. “There are so many kids out there fighting fire on contract for the U.S. Forest Service,” she said. “My court case is really for them, as well as the pilots. It’s pretty damn sad, what our government does to its own people – hiring contractors to hire kids so they don’t have to pay benefits.” [email protected] (916) 447-9302 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! SACRAMENTO – Larry Groff roared out of Ukiah in state Air Tanker 87 on Aug. 27, 2001, doing what he loved – flying and fighting wildfires. Like thousands of contract firefighters hired by the government, Groff figured that if anything ever happened to him, his private employers or the government would take care of his wife and six children. That day, Groff was killed in a midair collision while maneuvering above a North Coast wildfire ignited by a a meth-lab explosion. The two who started the fire were convicted of murder and sent to prison, but a courthouse battle continues. last_img read more

Chewing on idea jerky with Mark Twain and Will Rogers

first_imgAnd I like this report from England, where a drive to serve healthful meals in school cafeterias led to kids spending their lunch money on convenience store junk food. Meanwhile, in Little Rock, Ark., six elderly Roman Catholic nuns of the Army of Mary were excommunicated – much as the Angels were by Boston – after the Vatican judged them heretics for believing that their order’s founder, 86-year-old Marie Giguere, is the reincarnation of the Virgin Mary with God speaking through her. The nuns stated that the church had better “open their eyes before it’s too late” and that they only believe that God “communicates through Giguere.” Silly nuns. For starters, God communicates through the pope, who, in any case, will not tolerate female criminals in a church that has yet to excommunicate or even discipline some of the male sex offenders in its ranks and those who aided them. “An ethical man,” wrote Twain, “is a Christian holding four aces.” Or, as I see it, all the cards. Speaking of God, a man named Andy Schlafly of New Jersey was horrified by the “information” offered by the online encyclopedia Wikipedia. Wanting to correct all that crazy talk about the Earth being older than 10,000 years, he created, which is designed to tell certain people that what they already believe is absolutely correct. Now consider Peter Tork of the made-for-TV Monkees, which recorded 10 Top 20 singles in the 1960s. He claims that Rolling Stone editor Jann Wenner is blocking the group’s induction into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame. Wenner is, of course, an antique mired in a time before Americans expected their music idols to be complete fakes. Still, by comparison to many of today’s contrived sensations, the Monkees were Mozart. Then there was this quote from Dr. Ellen Laan of the University of Amsterdam: “I think that it’s progress when we can spend two hours in this performance-driven society admitting that maybe we don’t know what we’re talking about.” Her frightening statement came at the end of an Orlando medical conference on women’s sexual health, during which the expert assembly admitted to knowing next to nothing about what causes sexual arousal and orgasm in women. Or as Twain once quipped, “Neither do I!” Now take Michigan Democrat Rep. John Dingell’s lunatic suggestion that we reduce carbon emissions by removing the mortgage-interest tax deduction from all homes over 3,000 square feet. How killing with taxes people who own larger existing homes would help air quality remains a mystery. But he did make me recall Will Rogers, who once said, “I don’t belong to any organized political party. I’m a Democrat.” And 25 years ago, a scientist at Carnegie Mellon invented the colon-hyphen-parenthesis sideways smiley face that haunts the world like anthrax. I want to find that guy. Boy, do I want to find him. I said that. I want to hear your comments. Connect with me at [email protected] or send a letter to Daily Breeze/John Bogert, 5215 Torrance Blvd., Torrance, CA 90503-4077.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! I do this job for one reason only. Or one reason aside from how I get to read e-mails from complete strangers telling me that I look funny. And that one reason is how I get to foist my opinions off on a tolerant readership that often asks, “Where do you get those idiot ideas?” Well, many are plucked out of thin air while others are clipped from periodicals and carefully stored on my desk until they become idea jerky. Problem is, most of these items can’t fill an entire column. But neither can I let them go. Take a recent story about Sen. Larry Craig, R-Screwed, where he never says: “I have personal issues that I need to work out. Please understand that I am a frail human being who nonetheless cares very much about the the problems facing the West.” Personally, I’d advise Craig to think about something Mark Twain once said: “A man is never more truthful (and endearing) than when he acknowledges himself a liar.” Instead, he’s denying lewd conduct charges while – I love this – insisting that it is inappropriate and unpatriotic to discuss his bathroom behavior “while the nation is at war.” Then there is a study out of the Max Planck Institute suggesting that a sense of fair play is a uniquely (and I’d say rare) human trait not shared by our chimp relatives. Which brings to mind another Twain quote: “I believe that our Heavenly Father created man because he was disappointed with the monkey.” Only I think that it was the other way around. Now take Roberto Madrazo, a former Mexican presidential candidate who disappeared midway through the recent Berlin Marathon, then suddenly reappeared to win with an age-group record. Or as Twain once observed, “Nature knows no indecencies; man invents them.” last_img read more

Logan Couture named new San Jose Sharks captain

first_imgSAN JOSE — Logan Couture has been named the Sharks’ new captain by coach Pete DeBoer, the team announced Thursday morning.Couture, 30, a first round draft pick (ninth overall) by the Sharks in 2007, has spent all 10 years of his NHL career with San Jose and served as an alternate captain to Joe Pavelski from 2015-2019. Pavelski signed a three-year contract with the Dallas Stars on July 1 as a free agent.Along with Couture, Brent Burns, Tomas Hertl, Erik Karlsson, and Joe Thornton will each …last_img

Zuma calls for more SA, DRC trade

first_img31 October 2013South Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) must explore ways to increase trade and investment between the two countries, President Jacob Zuma told the South Africa-DRC Business Forum in Kinshasa on Wednesday.Zuma, who wrapped up his two-day state visit to the DRC on Wednesday, told the forum that the prevailing state of the global economy dictated that regional integration be placed at the top of Africa’s economic agenda.“There is no stronger case for intra-African trade than the recent global financial crises, which decreased African export revenues generated from the traditional western markets.“Africa has a potential market of US$2.6-trillion. The DRC and the countries surrounding it have a potential market comprising 200-million consumers. Yet only 10% of global trade takes place between African countries.”Zuma underscored the current view that the time was right for investors to turn to Africa as the next growth frontier.“African growth rates will average 6% in 2014. In comparison, growth in the developed world will average 3.6%. The DRC is estimated to grow at 8.2% in this year alone. Against this backdrop, any investor would be hard pressed to find higher rates of return elsewhere in the world.”South African companies are investing in the DRC in the mining, telecommunications, financial services, road infrastructure, construction and hospitality sectors, among others. Total South African investment in the DRC between 2006 and 2012 is estimated at R12.5-billion, with over 4 000 jobs created.South Africa and the DRC have a bi-national commission (BNC) which has so far overseen the signing of 32 bilateral agreements.Stimulating continental growthVarious African governments have signed the Tripartite Free Trade Area (T-FTA) agreement paving the way for more meaningful intra-African trade.Zuma said one notable initiative already launched under the arrangement was the Tripartite North-South Corridor Investment Programme.With initial funding of $1.2-billion (a large proportion coming from the African Development Bank and the Development Bank of Southern Africa), and strong support from the South African government, actions are being taken to fast-track this project.The programme supports some of Africa’s busiest trade routes, linking the port of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania to the copper belt in Zambia and Lubumbashi in the DRC. It then continues down through Zimbabwe and Botswana to Africa’s largest and busiest port, Durban, in South Africa.In all, the North-South Corridor Initiative will service eight countries: Tanzania, the DRC, Zambia, Malawi, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and South Africa.Zuma’s visit to the DRC also saw the signing of a treaty on the Grand Inga Hydropower Project, which could eventually become the largest hydroelectric project in the world, with the potential to power half of the continent.Source: read more

Pirates vie for Africa greatness

first_imgFirst round Zanaco (Zambia) 1-0, 2-1, 3-1 Second round TP Mazembe (DR Congo) 3-1, 0-1, 3-2 Group stage AC Leopards (DR Congo) 0-0 (h) Al Ahly (Egypt) 3-0 (a) Zamalek (Egypt) 4-1 (h) Zamalek (Egypt) 1-2 (a) AC Leopards (DR Congo) 0-1 (a) Al Ahly (Egypt) 0-0 (h) Preliminary round Djabal Club (Comoros) 5-0, 4-0, 9-0center_img Semi-finals Esperance (Tunisia) 0-0, 1-1, 1-1 (won on away goals) 1 November 2013 Orlando Pirates, who face Egypt’s Al Ahly in the first leg of the CAf Champions League final at Orlando Stadium in Soweto on Saturday, will be attempting to follow in the footsteps of the great Pirates side of 1995 – the only South African team to have won the African Champions League. The current team has resembled its predecessors by producing impressive results away from home, going against the grain to achieve the away wins and draws, which are traditionally exceptionally hard to come by in African competition. In fact, when the Buccaneers claimed the trophy in 1995, they also did it the hard way, drawing 2-2 with Asec Abidjan of the Ivory Coast in Soweto in the first leg of the final, before winning 1-0 away from home to come out on top 3-2 on aggregate. A fearsome test Pirates face a fearsome test in the 2013 final against Al Ahly, a team that the Confederation of African Football (Caf) named the “African Club of the Century” in 2000. With seven Caf Champions League titles to its name, Al Ahly is the most successful club in the history of the competition. It has also won a record 36 Egyptian Premier League titles, won the bronze medal in the Fifa Club World Cup in 2006, and placed fourth in the competition in 2012. However, Roger De Sa’s charges are unlikely to be overwhelmed by the task at hand, even though the task awaiting them is likely to be much tougher than it was in the group stages, when they faced Al Ahly during Ramadan, while the players were fasting, and in front of an empty stadium due to political unrest in Egypt. That’s what the 3-0 result in that game will do for players. Feet on the ground An impressive 4-1 victory over Al Ahly’s arch-rivals Zamalek will also serve as a confidence-booster for the Soweto giants, but a 1-2 defeat to the same side in Egypt and a goalless draw against Al Ahly at the Orlando Stadium will ensure that the South African club’s players keep their feet on the ground. On their way to the final, a victory over Democratic Republic of Congo powerhouse TP Mazembe, who appeared in the semi-finals of the Champions League in 2012, was a particular highlight and the kind of victory from which players grow. There were some who believed the Congolese would end the Buccaneers’ run, but a goal from Onyekachi Okonkwo in the second minute sent them on their way to a 3-1 victory in Soweto as Collins Mbesuma added a double. Away from home, however, Pirates were able to overcome the dark side of football in Africa, losing 1-0 on the day, but progressing 3-2 on aggregate, despite having to put up with multiple nasty hurdles. It began with the television broadcast of the match, which was cut just before kick-off in Lubumbashi. Then, during the game, Pirates captain Lucky Lekgwathi was shown a dubious red card and Mazembe were controversially awarded two penalties. Goalkeeper Senzo Meyiwa, however, stood firm, saving both spot kicks to steer the Sea Robbers into the group stages of Africa’s premier club competition.Semi-final victory The side’s semi-final victory over Tunisia’s Esperance was also a notable feat. The Blood and Gold had in the previous three seasons won the Champions League in 2011 and finished as runners-up in 2010 and 2012. In the first leg of the semi-finals, they played a very defensive game in Soweto and managed to hold Pirates to a goalless draw. De Sa’s charges used that result to their advantage, however, and by scoring an away goal they effectively forced Esperance to score two goals to win the game in Tunisia. They could not, and the 1-1 draw saw the South African club into the final on the away goals rule. Character-building Such character-building results will have shown the Pirates players that they have it within them to capture the Caf Champions League title again. South Africans football fans, including fans who normally have allegiance to other clubs, appear to have rallied behind the Buccaneers. The common view is that a victory for Pirates would be a victory for South Africa. The Soweto club has displayed impressive maturity during the Champions League competition to undo the traditional dominance of teams from central and north Africa. A victory, though, is needed to round off the job and boost South Africa’s Premier Soccer League.Bring on the football!Pirates’ path to the finallast_img read more

London Olympics: Government approves contingent of 142

first_imgThe sports ministry on Wednesday cleared a 142-member contingent for the London Olympics, as recommended by the Indian Olympic Association (IOA).Compared to previous trips to the Olympics, the emphasis this time was on ensuring the total number was kept to a realistic figure and needless officials did not jump onto the bandwagon.Of the 142 members, 81 are athletes who have qualified. Athletics has the largest presence with a total of 21, which included athletes, coaches and managers. Shooting has a total presence of 16, inclusive of coaches, support staff and managers while the total boxing contingent comes to 15.The total number of coaches cleared by the ministry comes to 36, in addition to four managers. An eight-member medical panel has also been cleared, which includes doctors ad physiotherapists.The sports ministry has also cleared six ‘P’-category officials. These include Sanjay Singh, physical trainer of Leander Paes, and Shamal Vallabhjee, who helps out Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna with their fitness. Abhinav Bindra had asked for his mental trainer, Amit Bhattacharya, and foreign coach, Uwe Linn, to be cleared, and this has been accepted.There are also seven contingent officials who have been cleared, including the support staff of the IOA.The big change is that compared to previous Olympics, the ministry has kept its own officials down to just two. This has been done keeping in mind the austerity measures put in place by the government.last_img read more

QuickList June inflation rates for Canadian provinces territories

first_imgOTTAWA – Canada’s national annual inflation rate was 1.0 per cent in June, Statistics Canada says. Here’s what happened in the provinces and territories (previous month in brackets):— Newfoundland and Labrador: 1.5 per cent (3.0)— Prince Edward Island: 1.2 (1.4)— Nova Scotia: 0.5 (0.5)— New Brunswick: 2.0 (2.4)— Quebec: 0.6 (0.7)— Ontario: 1.3 (1.4)— Manitoba: 0.2 (1.0)— Saskatchewan: 0.5 (0.9)— Alberta: 0.4 (1.2)— British Columbia: 1.7 (1.9)— Whitehorse, Yukon: 0.6 (2.1)— Yellowknife, N.W.T.: 0.8 (1.2)last_img