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what's newsWoman’s body found in North County

A driver stopped alongside Highway 101 Tuesday stumbled upon a woman’s body believed to be that of Norma Alicia Barto, a 56-year-old Templeton woman missing since Nov. 26.

The body was discovered between Paso Robles and San Miguel, 200 yards from the roadway. The man called authorities at 4:42 p.m.

Sheriff’s investigators said the body’s stature matched that of Barto.

Detectives scheduled an autopsy Wednesday morning, and forensic testing and dental records should help determine the woman’s identity.

Grocery store chains under investigation

A “mutual aid” pact between grocery chains to share costs and revenues during the protracted labor strike may have run afoul of state law, according to California’s top lawyer.

Attorney General Bill Lockyer said Monday he will investigate possible antitrust violations by Albertson’s and Ralph’s, owned by Kroger Co., and Vons and Pavilions, owned by Safeway Inc.

Officials of the parent companies have acknowledged that such an agreement exists, but have refused to provide details or make it public, said Lockyer.

Strikers set up picket lines Oct. 11 in an action that has idled 70,000 workers at more than 850 Southern and Central California stores, including those in San Luis Obispo County.

The attorney general said the parent grocery companies “combine for more than $100 billion in annual sales. But sales figures do not measure a company’s true worth, or the quality of life for families. Those are interests the striking workers have at stake,” he said.

Lockyer’s probe will seek to determine if the “stores on the other side are playing fair and within the rules set by state and federal law.”

San Miguel man won’t pursue CSD board seat

Gregory Campbell will not continue his efforts to regain a seat on the San Miguel Community Services District Board (SMCSD), he said early this week.

Campbell, the board member who spent six months on duty with the California National Guard and returned home to find his seat had been taken by a new appointee, does not want the community “to have to spend the kind of money the board is prepared to spend in order to keep me off the board.”

Board members said Campbell did not give notice of his pending departure in January as required by law, and did not contact the board about his return until he had been home for two months.

Board member Lewis Rowe, who now occupies the seat vacated by Campbell, said Campbell made the right decision.

“He doesn’t have a case and he knows it,” said Rowe Tuesday. “I’m glad he came to this conclusion. The community doesn’t need this.”

Winter flu season hits SLO, lightly at first

County health officials have reported the first confirmed case of influenza A, affecting an unidentified San Luis Obispo resident.

San Luis Obispo County Health Officer Gregory Thomas said the case was diagnosed two weeks earlier than usual in this county.

Flu cases have been increasing all over California, according to Thomas, who noted that the bug is somewhat varied from previous flu types. Thomas suggested flu shots to head off or reduce the severity of the flu.

Pismo man faces murder charges

Clinton Duane Crites will face charges that he murdered a Pismo Beach restaurant worker, San Luis Obispo County District Attorney Gerald Shea said Tuesday.

Crites allegedly stabbed 56-year-old Douglas Okashima Sept. 18. Additional enhancements for prior felonies means the accused faces 50 years to life in state prison if convicted.

Prosecutors have not revealed a motive for the killing, but have said the slaying took place in Pismo Beach. ³

This week’s What’s News was compiled by News Editor Daniel Blackburn and Staff Writer Matt McBride from local and other news sources.

As holiday shoppers flooded the streets in search of bargains, animal rights activists passed out leaflets in front of two downtown SLO businesses the day after Thanksgiving.

A tape-recording of screaming foxes briefly filled the air as activists standing in front of the Coverings clothing store on Higuera Street greeted shoppers: "Please shop with compassion."

Only doors away, in front of premier Central Coast furrier Mr. Michael's, more activists with graphic placards of skinned foxes said, "Don't support stores that support cruel fur industries."

The demonstration was part of the international Fur-Free Friday that targets the fur industry for cruelty to animals, including rabbits, beavers, foxes, and lynxes.

"We're asking people not to patronize this store because they sell furs," said Peggy Koteen, who helped organize placard-carriers of Santa Monica's Animal Emancipation Inc., and North County's Humane Society.

The groups claim that 6 million to 10 million animals die on American fur farms each year. They are destroyed by anal electrocution, poisoning, suffocation, strangulation, gas, and crushing.

About 12 protesters stood in front of both stores. Activists have protested Mr. Michaels every year for at least a decade, Koteen said.

This is the first time activists also parked outside of Coverings, which recently has been displaying a small line of furs. Koteen pointed at the Coverings window, adding that a rabbit fur had been removed the day before the protest.

"I talked with the owner about rescinding their policy" of selling furs, Koteen said. "Her excuse was, 'It's in the catalogs and I'm going to carry it.'"

Coverings store manager Mirjam Holt said the store carries nine fur coats, "a very small percentage of our business." She said activists had called the store a few days before the protest urging the store to stop selling furs.

"We really wanted to cooperate with them," Holt said, noting the reason for moving the rabbit fur off the window display. The fur was placed onto another rack inside the store. The protest isn't likely to affect sales or their policy about selling furs, she added.

Michael Weintraub of Mr. Michael's said protesters actually helped his sales.

"People come in and buy a jacket just so they can go back out and say, 'Look what I bought!'" Weintraub said. "It never fails. Every time they're out there, someone will come in and buy a fur."

The protests aren't going to affect his business either, he added. "Furs and leather are absolutely our business," he said, noting that he's a third-generation furrier and has no intention of quitting now.

Protesters pleaded with storeowners to consider selling fake furs, but Weintraub said the imitation furs can't compare with the comfort and longevity of the real thing.

Besides, he added, "furs are big right now; they're very fashionable."

Meanwhile, retired teacher Donna VanBeek held a sign outside of Weintraub's store: "Mr. Michael, please don't be cruel, selling fur is so uncool."

Below the store window activists placed graphic images of a skinned fox with the words, "Fur: No skin off your back," and of an electric probe used for anal electrocution ("in order not to hurt the outside of the fox").

"I've been out here every year," VanBeek said. "I've always been involved in promotions to benefit animals."

An aggravated mother shooshed her children away from the line of graphic placards and scolded VanBeek as she hurried past: "Kind of graphic for the kids, guys!"

Another shopper blurted, "Kill humans, not animals."

Most of the responses, VanBeek said, have been positive. "And, really, who needs fur? There are plenty of alternatives." ³

Managing Editor Stacey Warde can be reached at


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