Volume XII, Issue 22: January 4, 2013

Howard Stauffer noted that recent research has found that there is a single stem cell that causes cancer. That discovery and other information about stem cell research will be presented by Dr. Amy Sprowles of Humboldt State  on Saturday, January 12th. The program will begin at 7 pm at the Westhaven Center for the Arts in Trinidad.

The countdown has begun! Our Spring Fundraiser will be held on March 9th, which is a mere eight weeks away. The Event Committee’s kickoff meeting will take place at 5 pm this Thursday at the Firehouse. All are welcome to attend.

Kahuna Kavinta, aka “President George”, reminded us that our brand-spankin’ new 2013 calendars should contain the following information:

  • January 11 – Past President Scott Heller is slated to tell us of his recent adventure in Honduras, where he earned his divemaster certification (and became engaged). 
  • January 18 – Our Guest Speaker will be Anne Bown-Crawford, who heads up the Arcata Arts Institute at Arcata High School. She will be discussing Community-Supported Art.
  • January 25 – Fabulous Foundation Friday! Bring your checkbooks!
  • January 25 through 27 – The District 5130 Youth Exchange Ski Trip to Mt Shasta
  • And our Charter Night will take place sometime in February … date to be announced

George then led us down Short-Term Memory Lane, recapping our Club’s accomplishments in the Year (to Date) of the Kahuna:

  • We welcomed our Inbound Exchange Student from Thailand, Fa Sillapajarn and sent Colin Swenson Outbound to Trieste, Italy
  • We partnered with the Arcata Rotary for a well-attended Welcome Party for Fa and her Noon Club counterpart, Luca Vass from Hungary
  • District Governor Michael Juric paid us a visit
  • We sponsored a square for Pastels on the Plaza, a fundraiser for Northcoast Children’s’ Services
  • We hosted the annual Arcata Sunrise Rotary Cross-Country Championships
  • Ron Sharp led us through another successful Taste of the Holidays
  • We enjoyed an HSU Jacks Basketball Game, courtesy of Dan Collen and the Fellowship Committee
  • The Foster Youth Community was treated to a fantastic Holiday Dinner, prepared and served by Sunrisers
  • We once again hosted the Annual Jerry Paul Classic Arcata Invitational Basketball Tournament (#45!)
  • And through our Financial Assistance Committee, the Rotary Club of Arcata Sunrise supported the Arcata Arts Institute, helped fund the Orick School trip to Washington, DC, and helped keep the Homework Hotline on the air at KEET-TV

Over our hiatus, the Kahuna turned the big Five-O (which is probably the most appropriate age for a law-enforcement official). He celebrated with family and close friends at Merryman’s Beach House.

On New Year’s Eve, Cam Appleton turned the big Six-O. He said that it was a relatively quiet night, as I’m sure his birthday usually is. The family dined on Crab Vermouth, and Cam stayed up ’til midnight. But he said that the big celebration will take place on or about the 15th of January, which is his wife Lisa’s birthday.

Ron Sharp’s birthday also took place on December 31th. If there was an “O” involved, he didn’t let on. He did acknowledge that he had a rockin’ birthday – his band, Cadillac Ranch, played to a full house at Blue Lake’s Logger Bar. Bob Johnson was there, and he led a dancing train to the street! Ron said, “It was one of the funnest birthdays I’ve ever had!”


Jeane & Julie

Laura Montagna hosted our recognition-fest last Friday, which had a journalistic theme. She presented front-page stories featuring various Sunrisers, beginning with Jeff Munther. He was pictured in the Idaho Press-Tribune under the headline, “A Dream Come True”. He admitted that he was either at home or in Nome [Note to self: Write more clearly at future meetings]. Wherever he was living the dream, it involved golf.

The Daily Express featured a photo of two young girls, who turned out to be Julie Vaissade-Elcock and her sister Jeane. The photo is reproduced here, courtesy of the Daily Express (and Facebook).

Surprisingly, Matt Babich was the subject of an article in Il Giornale. No one was more astonished than the editors of that newspaper. Matt told us that his New Year’s celebration included an enormous bottle of champagne and a horse. His words of wisdom to us? “Don’t drink champagne then ride on the Hammond Trail.”

Last Friday’s Feature Presentation was provided by Sunriser Orrin Plocher, who told us of the two-year “Russian Adoption Journey” that began in December 2010. A foreign adoption is a challenging undertaking, under the best of circumstances, but the Plocher family adventure featured a twist that no one anticipated.

Orrin started by telling us about Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian attorney and auditor for the UK-based investment firm Hermitage Capital Management. The company’s founder William Browder was a supporter of Russian president Vladimir Putin, he was kicked out of Russia in 2005 as a “threat to national security”. Soon, the firm’s assets were seized by the government, which claimed that it had underpaid taxes totaling approximately $230 million.

As the company’s lawyer, Magnitsky had investigated the charges levied against Hermitage Capital, and he found that materials confiscated during the asset seizures had been given by the police to organized criminals. The documents taken were used by the criminals to take over three of Heritage Capital’s Russian companies. Magnitsky’s investigation implicated the police, the judiciary, tax officials, bankers, and the Russian Mafia.

In apparent response to his charges, Magnitsky was accused of collusion with Hermitage Capital regarding the alleged tax fraud, and imprisoned at the Butyrka Prison in Moscow in November 2008. While being held in prison without trial, he became ill, but received only minimal care, which proved inadequate. After being held for 11 months, Magnitsky died.

His prison diary told a bleak tale of harsh interrogations and attempts to coerce Magnitsky to testify against Hermitage. His refusals led to beatings and his relocation to increasingly dangerous sections of the prison, and he was denied medical treatment for his failing health.

The incident received international attention. The European Parliament called for banning Russian officials believed to be involved from entering the European Union, and for freezing their assets. Canada resolved to deny visas to those individuals, and it also froze their assets held in that country. In late 2012, the Magnitsky Bill was passed by the US Congress and signed into law by President Obama on December 14, 2012. This legislation also sought to punish those identified as responsible for Magnitsky’s death.

Russian officials saw these actions, particularly the Magnitsky Bill, as attempts to interfere with their internal governance. Russian President Putin said that the act “of course poisons our relationship” with the U.S.  In response, on December 28th, Putin signed a bill banning Americans from adopting Russian children, which would take effect January 1, 2013.

Fortunately, Orrin and his wife Cristina were happily unaware of the rapidly approachingbut unannounced deadline. They had traveled to Russia in August and September 2012 for an initial visit with Alexander and to begin the formal adoption process.The couple returned to Russia in November to once again visit Alexander and to be in court for the adoption hearings, which lasted three days.

Their third and final visit took place in December. The goals for this trip were to

  • Visit Alex
  • Photograph him for his passport/visa
  • Acquire court decree
  • Acquire new birth certificate
  • Acquire adoption certificate
  • Local registration of birth certificate and adoption certificate
  • Acquire Russian passport for Alex
  • Acquire US Visa for Alex
  • Registration of Alex with Russian Federation Embassy (SF)
Alex is taking calls already?

Orrin said that he and Cristina did not understand why the adoption officials were rushing the family through the process. He said that there were times when he was feeling under the weather and hoping to take a day off, but the officials were insistent that the process continue. The Plochers did not find out the reason for the rush until they were about to leave the country.

Alexander made it safely to Humboldt County, where he is acclimating to live as a Plocher. We hope that our newest Rotary Kid will be able to attend one of our Club’s meetings soon.