Letter from Istanbul: Living in the New Turkey

James Tressler / Sunday, Sept. 21 @ 7 a.m. / Letter From Istanbul

When Recep Tayyip Erdoğan cruised to an easy (and expected) victory in last month’s presidential race, he triumphantly called for “a new Turkey.”

He said it was time to put aside the old divisions, and unite, and move forward. Of course, every winning politician says the same thing.

But what is this New Turkey?

Yesterday I read a story in the Hurriyet Daily News, one of the leading newspapers, that said that Turkey was becoming a recruiting hotspot for the Islamic State (ISIL). A subsequent New York Times story backed up this claim. Both entailed harrowing reports of IS recruiters roaming the neighborhoods and backstreets of Istanbul, of Ankara, and other cities, looking for disaffected youth to gather up and send over the border to Syria and Iraq. For as much as 150 bucks per day, they could vent all their pent up anger and disillusionment by shooting at the great Enemy, the West.

(Of course, I also read stories of similar recruit drives in Europe and America; at one university in America, students were actually signing petitions in support of IS. “Are those the guys who have been cutting off Americans’ heads?” asked one student, as he signed the document. )

Nice to think that right here, in my neighborhood of Kadikoy, that somewhere nearby could be some fellow walking around, approaching young people and asking if they’d like to sign up. One afternoon this week, I managed to get an early afternoon off. I caught a dolmus from the school back to Kadikoy. It was the first week of the new academic year, and most of the students were heading back to university.

Vaguely, I wondered, if it would be possible to wander around certain half-deserted streets (the muttering retreats) and enquire if any IS recruiters had been around.

You can imagine the scenario:

An American walks into a dark-lit, smoky café. Inside it is nearly empty; a few men sit over glasses of tea, or perhaps a pint of beer (it’s a bit early for that). They are reading newspapers, or watching the round-up of football scores on an ancient television above the bar.

Merhabalar,” says the American, with studied courtesy.

Böyrun, kolay gelsen,” says the garcon.

“Pardon,” says the American. “Burdalarda IŞIT işveren var mı?” He tries to make the question sound light, casual, as if asking for directions to the nearest metro stop.

Effedim?” the garcon asks, not sure he understands. Another garcon, a younger guy, approaches.

“Can I help you?” He asks, in English.

“Oh, you speak English!” the American says gratefully. “I just wanted to know, are there any IS recruiters around here?”

“IS?” the guy is confused. In Turkish they say IŞIT.

“You know,” the American guy says. “IŞIT. Are there any IŞIT recruiters around here?”

The other men look up. The older garcon shakes his head, looks at the American suspiciously. One of the other men gets up from the bar, approaches the American with a hostile look.

Siz kimsiz?” The man says angrily. “CIA mı siz?”

The American anxiously denies this. No, he is not CIA. He ıs only a journalist, and a poorly paid one at that.

“You are a journalist?” the man says, still in Turkish and even angrier. He spits, shouts an obscentity. “Siktir git, pezivenk!” He gestures toward the door.

The American journalist, taking the hint and not wishing to be beaten up for the simple sin of being a member of the press, slowly and calmly hauls ass. Outside, he is followed by a couple of the men. He breaks into a run, they chase him, catch him and start to beat the American. A policeman finally arrives, breaks it up. He asks for the American’s passport. The men, meanwhile, are telling the policeman that you are a CIA agent asking about the Islamic State … In the morning, the Turkish papers report of an “AMERICAN ‘JOURNALIST’ BEATEN, ACCUSED OF BEING AGENT.”


… Well, as you can see, that would hardly be ideal. Actually, when I read the New York Times story, which was written by a Turkish reporter, I envied the reporter’s ability to go into shops and make such direct enquiries. But then, she has the hometown advantage, I suppose. She doesn’t have to walk around with the burden of Western distrust; of course as a journalist in Turkey, she still could potentially be accused of trying to “overthrow the government,” always a de facto charge here against “provocative” journalists, but at least she won’t be considered a CIA agent.


Meanwhile, pundits suggest that Turkey’s decades-old policy of zero conflict with its neighbors could potentially have backfired, in that now Turkey finds itself isolated and vulnerable in a region torn by war. These days, with US-led forces beginning to drop bombs on IS fighters, it’s Turkey’s responsibility, so it has been reported, to clamp down on the borders, to prevent new IS recruits from crossing over into Iraq and Syria. Well, as Americans back home know with border patrols, good luck with that. And what do you do if the recruits are coming from your own backyards? Start patrolling the neighborhoods too?

Perhaps all this is pure speculation, fear-mongering; if so, I apologize. I’m sure it is not the New Turkey that Mr. Erdoğan has envisioned, but it could be one that is on the way, if not here already.

[CORRECTION: The original version of the story misidentified the sex of the New York Times reporter in the third-to-last paragraph.]

James Tressler, a former California-based journalist, is the author of “Lost Coast D.A.,” “Letters from Istanbul, Vol. 1,” and “Conversations in Prague.” He lives in Istanbul.


[ONE FOUND] Be On the Lookout: Two Vehicles Stolen

Kym Kemp / Saturday, Sept. 20 @ 7:23 p.m. / Crime

Here’s the latest post in LoCO‘s “Be On the Lookout” series, where we highlight stolen items (in this case the item may have been lost and later found) and ask you to help by reporting any sighting to the appropriate law enforcement agency.

UPDATE: 9/21: According to a family member of the owner, the 2000 Toyota Avalon was spotted behind the old Safeway building in Eureka. The owner has his car back. Thanks for looking folks!


Original post:

We have reports of two stolen vehicles. We hope you can help us bring them home like you helped bring home the iPhone in the last BOLO we posted.

The first vehicle, a black 1988 Toyota pickup with a distinctive pink grill and Oregon plates TZG633 was taken from Eureka on September 17.

See photos below. 

Anyone with any information please contact the Eureka Police Department at (707) 441-4060.

The second vehicle was taken last night or early this morning from Eureka. The stolen car is a 2000 Toyota Avalon plate number 4MOR001. See photo below.

To make matters worse, the owner’s home was burglarized. Cash, car keys, and paychecks were also stolen.

Report sightings of the Avalon to the Eureka Police Department 441-4060. 

If you can, please share this post on social media. One of your friends might know something and be able to help.



Previous BOLO:

Felled Billboards Removed for Coastal Cleanup Day

Ryan Burns / Saturday, Sept. 20 @ 1:33 p.m. / Environment , Government

Today, as you may have heard, is Coastal Cleanup Day, and a group of volunteers organized by the Northcoast Environmental Center (NEC) arranged to remove those two billboards that have been lying face-down along Hwy. 101 between Arcata and Eureka ever since an unknown (and some would say righteous) vandal cut them down early this year.

Around 9 o’clock this morning, NEC Executive Director Dan Ehresman was standing atop the ribs of a warped, wooden plank drooping into the slough. Ehresman said both felled billboards, which stood for years without permission from the public landowners, had been deteriorating. A plank from the northern billboard had been picked up by the tide and carried dozens of yards south, and pickleweed was growing on both planks.

Among the volunteers on hand was Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District Commissioner Mike Wilson.

Ehresman released a brief statement:

The NEC is coordinating this cleanup in conjunction with Coastal Cleanup Day and joining hundreds of volunteers throughout Humboldt County and thousands around the world in this global day of action for our oceans and beaches. We have an encroachment permit from Caltrans for work in the Hwy 101 right-of-way and permission from the sign owner, CBS Outdoor, for the removal of the downed billboard debris that is located on public land. Coastal Cleanup Day is a volunteer based effort that would not be possible without the support of businesses and individuals throughout the region.

Previous billboard drama:

The Death of Tommy McClain: What Happened in Wednesday’s Officer-Involved Shooting

Kym Kemp / Saturday, Sept. 20 @ 8:24 a.m. / News

Valorie Mottern, age 4, sits on her front steps beside a shrine to her dad’s cousin. He died Tuesday in Eureka as the result of an officer-involved shooting. [Photo provided by Nichole and Josh Mottern.] 

Thomas McClain died after being shot by Eureka Police Department officers in his front yard. Did he have a gun? Was the shooting justified? Family says no. Law enforcement and one neighbor say otherwise.

Nichole Mottern still can’t bring herself to believe that Thomas McClain, her husband’s cousin, was fatally shot by Eureka Police Department officers early Wednesday, September 17. She speaks of McClain in the present tense.

“Tommy lives with me and Josh and my kids,” she explained. “He came up here to get away from the Fresno lifestyle. He became our family.”

On Tuesday, she had taken the two men out for her husband’s birthday. She explained during an interview Thursday that Josh Mottern, her husband and McClain’s cousin, was inebriated so he went upstairs to bed in their two-story townhouse. Her mother, who had been babysitting, was on the living room couch.

The home of Thomas McClain. He, his cousin, his cousin’s wife and two children shared the space in one unit. Another residence, which is currently empty, is attached.

Mottern said she and McClain were outside chatting in the front of the house after midnight (Tuesday night/Wednesday morning) when she ran upstairs to check on her husband. From there she looked out the window and noticed a police officer behind her home “looking around.” 

“All of a sudden he took off towards the front of the house,” Mottern explained. She ran downstairs and outside to see what was going on. (She believes she was in the house a very short time, about two minutes.) When she got onto the front porch, bright lights were shining in her eyes.

She described what she remembers to the Outpost. “The cops were out there screaming, ‘Put your hands up! Put your hands up.’ I put my hands up,”  she said.

McClain, she explained, was on the lawn area near the home. “Tommy was already out there,” she said. “He sits out there and smokes cigarettes. He came out from beside the porch… . He started to put his hands up. He walked out into the grass… . [The officers] were telling him to come.”

In an interview also on Thursday, Corinna Ward, Mottern’s mother, said she was on the porch by the front door. She described law enforcement as being “in a semi-circle, at least five or maybe six [officers].”

Eureka Police Chief Andrew Mills said there were four officers at the scene.

According to Ward, the officers ordered McClain to the ground. “They were telling him to get down,” Ward said, “I don’t think he understood… . I don’t know.”

Ward doesn’t believe McClain was armed. “I didn’t see anything,” she said. “His hands were near so you could see. He had them raised. He stepped forward. I didn’t see anything in them.”

Mottern described what she believes happened next: “A cop yelled, ‘He’s got a gun.’ They all fired. I saw him getting shot from all different angles. First shot fired and then they all fired. It wasn’t one cop. It was them all. There were a lot of cops… . He crumpled down into the ground.” [According to scanner tape, this occurred about 12:30 a.m. Wednesday.]

She believes the shooting was not justified. According to Mottern, McClain didn’t have a gun. “There was nothing in his hand,” she said.

A neighbor who wishes to remain anonymous disagreed. In an interview today the individual said, “I did see an object in his hand.” The individual did not want to describe the situation further except to say, “I feel that the level of force used was justified. It was a clear threat to the officer’s life. I feel it was unfortunate. But it was fortunate that no others were injured.”

Another neighbor who also wishes to remain anonymous described what she saw. She said she was in bed when she heard yelling. “I got out of bed. By the time I got to the window, I heard four gunshots. I sunk back against my bed. After the initial shock hit me, I started to look out the window. There were three cop cars that I could see. [Officers] were yelling that shots had been fired… . Right after the man had been shot, I looked at the time and it was 12:30 [a.m.].”

In her interview, Nichole Mottern described what she believed happened next. “After they shot him, they handcuffed him and he was laying there lifeless… . [The officers] wouldn’t let us go to him. They told us to put our hands up… . When you have all officers shouting at you different commands, it is very confusing. Especially when you aren’t doing anything wrong.”

At this point, Josh Mottern arrived outside from upstairs. Mrs. Mottern explained what she saw: “My husband came out. He saw Tommy laying there. He started screaming and crying. He thought some tweeker guy shot Tommy.”

Corinna Ward, Mrs. Mottern’s mother, recounted the incident as she saw it: “[Josh] was really distraught. We were trying to keep him back so he wouldn’t get shot. [Law enforcement officers] tasered him. Then tackled him and then sent him off to jail.”

Below is footage taken by Nichole Mottern just after her husband was tasered. Warning. This is a disturbing video. 

While Mr. Mottern went to jail, Mrs. Mottern went to the hospital to be with Thomas McClain. “They took him in an ambulance. I couldn’t be with him for his last moments,” she said.  

Then she added slowly, quietly, “They treated him like a bad person.”

“[Some people] are saying that Tommy was fighting with someone,” Mrs. Mottern said. But she doesn’t think that could be true. She doesn’t think she had been gone long enough for a fight to start. “He had just liked a picture on my Facebook a minute before.” (See screenshot below.)


Thomas McClain liked and commented on a photo posted by Nichole (Niki) Mottern. He thanked her and another friend for the fun time they’d had that night approximately five minutes before the fatal shots were fired.

“My kids have been really affected,” she said. “I told the teacher what was going on and asked her to be there for [my daughter] a little bit extra… . My daughter drew a picture of Tommy with his hands up.”  

Drawing of Thomas McClain by Mottern’s daughter, four-year-old Valorie, who told the teacher, “The cops thought Tommy was a bad guy but he wasn’t. “

“There’s bullet holes in my yard,” she said. “Bullet holes in the house next to me. I live in a townhouse. There is another house on the other side. They had just moved out or there would have been people on that side.”

Reached at home, Eureka Police Chief Andrew Mills said that he doesn’t think there were bullet holes in the unit next door. “I don’t believe so but am not sure,” he said.

[UPDATE 10:a.m.: Photos added below from Nichole Mottern. She says the images show the bullet holes left in a residential unit connected to her home and in the fence around her home.]

[UPDATE 12:04 p.m.: In response to the photos, Chief Mills said, “The DOJ [Department of Justice] crime scene specialist are good at what they do. If it was something missed I will make sure that it is collected properly.”]

Mills did confirm that “there was a gun recovered. I don’t want to get into where exactly the gun was until I can prove that forensically to my satisfaction… . I want to make sure I’m a 100 percent accurate.”

Mills said that his team is asking “tough questions of the officers.” He says that their stories have to be verified through evidence. “That is why I’m being slow and careful. We want to count everybody’s bullets and look for shell casings.” 

“When we do the administrative review,” Mills said. “I’m going to bring outside experts to look at this. We’ll look at a broad range of things. We may need different equipment or different tactics. I’m not saying that is the case but I want other people than Eureka Police Department to look at this so we can have as broad of perspective as possible.”

Chief Mills spoke quietly. “I’ve talked to some of the family members and my heart aches for them. But my heart also aches for my officers. The whole thing is a tragedy.”

“None of it makes sense,” Mrs. Mottern said. “It was a really good night that ended really bad.”

*In the first paragraph, this post corrects an earlier version that mistakenly said two neighbors believed the shooting was justified.


A Gathering For Tommy (PHOTOS/VIDEO)

Andrew Goff / Friday, Sept. 19 @ 8:16 p.m. / Community

Above: Nikki and Josh Mottern and their children Valorie and Kendra light candles at a vigil for Tommy McClain

Friday evening, around a hundred people gathered in the front yard of a home on Allard Street in Eureka on the very spot where, two days prior, 22-year-old Tommy McClain was shot and killed by an officer with the Eureka Police Department.

The event was organized and promoted via the “Justice for Tommy McClain” Facebook page by McClain’s cousin Nikki Mottern and her husband Josh — who lived in the house with Tommy where the incident occurred — and was attended by his mother, step-father and brother who’d traveled up from Fresno.

The crowd shared stories, lit candles and released balloons for their loved one (see the video below). 

The Outpost’s Kym Kemp has been talking with parties on all sides of Wednesday morning’s events and will have a full report online tomorrow morning. (Update: Click here.)  


Above: Tommy’s mother, Jeanne Barragan, watches balloons released in honor of her son.

Above: Frank, Jeanne and Nathaniel Barragan

Above: Tommy’s cousin James Bowman lights candles at a makeshift memorial.

Here’s How Hundreds of People Are Working to Fix the Eel River Delta

Ryan Burns / Friday, Sept. 19 @ 4:53 p.m. / Environment , Local Happenings

Stakeholders assemble to discuss the science behind the Salt River Ecosystem Restoration Project.

Scientists and government employees generally aren’t known as party animals, but there was definitely a festive mood yesterday at the Fortuna River Lodge as close to a hundred stakeholders gathered to celebrate the progress being made restoring the Eel River estuary. Roughly three decades of work has already gone into restoration, and there’s still a lot of ecological work needed to repair an estuary impacted by generations of dike-building, ditch-digging and sedimentation. But the biologists, engineers, nonprofit leaders and property owners on hand Thursday sounded optimistic.

Wiyot Tribe member Vincent DiMarzo delivered the welcoming remarks, explaining as the crowd sipped coffee that “Wiyot” is the local tribe’s word for the Eel River itself. It means “bountiful,” DiMarzo said, adding, “To see the river the way it is now is tough for me.”

The Eel was once one of the largest salmon-producing rivers in the state, and much of the delta’s river system was deep enough to host hundred-ton shipping vessels carrying goods from San Francisco and beyond. A hundred and fifty years ago, the delta’s river system would drain naturally with the rains and tides. But in seeking to manipulate the land to improve agriculture, people altered the estuary, diking off natural tributaries and digging channels to direct drainage. Over the subsequent years, these altered channels began to fill with the steady flow of sediment washing off the highly erosive Wildcat Hills, impacting the tidal prism and, ironically, leading to frequent flooding of the region’s agricultural land.

Former Humboldt County Supervisor Jimmy Smith is considered one of the most influential leaders in restoration efforts for the estuary. Standing before the crowd yesterday he remarked that next year will be his 20th working on Eel River restoration projects. Smith recalled going door-to-door in 1995, when he was running for a seat on the Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District, and hearing from landowners in the Eel River Valley who were concerned about flooding, wastewater problems and acres lost due to lack of drainage.

“Agricultural land in the county was underwater for months at a time,” Smith said. “People were angry.” In fact, the Salt River Ecosystem Restoration Project, the delta’s most extensive and complex restoration project to date, was instigated by landowners. Nearly two decades later, Smith is impressed with the progress and excited about the potential.

“I think this will be the most successful, largest restoration ever in Northern California,” he said. “These projects not only benefit habitat; they allow working lands to continue into the future.”

After presentations at the River Lodge, attendees piled into government-issue SUVs and drove out to several project sites.

The relationship between conservationists and landowners has often been an uneasy one. Katherine Ziemer, executive director of the Humboldt County Farm Bureau, said she was surprised to even be invited to speak yesterday. “We’ve been, if anything, an impediment,” she remarked. Many of the area’s landowners, she said, have felt disrespected and overlooked during much of the planning and implementation of these projects. She noted that only one landowner, grass-fed-cattle rancher Jay Russ, was among the day’s long list of speakers. “I think in the future we could be better partners,” Ziemer said.

The next speaker, Paula Golightly of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, offered an anecdote to convey the uneasy dynamic between scientists and landowners. Golightly said she had gone out to meet with a rancher named Larry — “hands the size of dinner plates,” she said. Larry invited her to step into his office, gesturing toward the cab of his full-size pickup. She climbed in on the passenger side and shut the door. Larry turned to her, Golightly recalled, and said, “I gotta tell you something, little lady: You scare the hell outta me.”

Without landowner cooperation, most of these restoration projects would be impossible. Landowners, meanwhile, don’t want to be forced into actions that could harm their land and livelihoods.

But Jay Russ, the local cattle farmer, said the projects here have been designed as win-win propositions. Standing with his thumbs looped into the pockets of his blue jeans Russ said, “From an agricultural point of view, flood control and improved drainage is what pays our bills.” Farmers like him get money from agricultural production and shouldn’t be held responsible for upholding the Endangered Species Act, he argued. But he feels that, here, at least, both goals can be achieved simultaneously. “We will find a common solution,” he said.

Allan Renger, fish biologist with the California Department of Fish & Wildlife, explains how conservationists are using fine-mesh netting to monitor fish in the Salt River Ecosystem Restoration Project.

After lunch, attendees of the event climbed into a line of government SUVs and headed out for a tour of some of the project sites. Programming for the day focused on three major projects, each in a different stage of completion.

The Eel River Estuary Preserve project (pdf“seeks to restore salmon rearing habitat, riparian function, water quality and fish passage while creating a mosaic of pasturelands and natural landscapes.” It’s also designed to enhance agricultural uses such as livestock grazing while reducing the impacts of climate change and enhancing recreational uses. The total project cost of just over $1 million has been provided by two grants, one from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the other from the State Coastal Conservancy.

Still in its early phases, the Ocean Ranch project (pdf) is further north, just south of Humboldt Bay:

This area (blue in the map) was historically claimed for agricultural use, though it’s not currently being used as such. The project aims to improve the functioning of the tidal marsh, freshwater riparian areas and other habitats, which play host to Pacific salmon, migratory birds and other species.

The most ambitious of the three projects is the Salt River Ecosystem Restoration (pdf), which local landowners have been well aware of, given the massive amount of work that’s already gone into it over the past 30 years. Workers from a long list of project partners (see the pdf) have reconstructed a 330-acre tidal wetland, enlarged 2 1/2 miles of river channel and excavated more than three miles of internal slough networks.

When all is said and done, the price tag will be in the neighborhood of $13 million. The four main goals of the Salt River project include enhancing the tidal marsh, restoring the historic Salt River channel, managing upslope sediment and planning for future adaptive management.

Michael Bowen with the California Coastal Conservancy explained that, rather than constructing L.A.-style aqueducts, designers aimed for full ecosystem restoration, and wildlife biologists have already seen encouraging results.

The SUVs pulled up on a dirt road along an excavated channel and the various stakeholders (along with a couple reporters) climbed out into the rain, which had just begun falling. Allan Renger, fish biologist with the California Department of Fish & Wildlife, explained how workers have been monitoring fish in the channel, and then offered a demonstration.

Two workers in fishing waders stretched a fine-mesh net across the width of the channel, with the bottom submerged underwater, and proceeded to walk upstream about 20 yards, dragging the net through the water. Then they lifted the netting up and slowly rolled the ends.

Finally they dumped the contents of the net into a clear plastic receptacle held by Renger, who walked back to the crowd, which had been watching from a slope beyond the mud puddles.

Renger held up the little bin to reveal fish inside — little sticklebacks and tidewater gobies. 

Earlier in the day, Bowen said this happy outcome was far from assured. Before the design was complete, before the channels were widened and the slough networks excavated, scientists asked each other, “Will the fish figure it out? Will they know how to find their way back?” 

They did. Still, there’s a long way to go before the estuary approaches the healthy ecosystem that it used to be. “These projects are not 50-yard dashes,” said former supervisor Jimmy Smith earlier in the day. “They’re marathons.”

Before restoration work, this channel was narrow enough to jump over.

Rollover Accident in Eureka

Kym Kemp / Friday, Sept. 19 @ 4:43 p.m. / News


The Eureka Police Department just tweeted,

According to Hank Sims, editor of the Lost Coast Outpost, traffic is backed up to Broadway and Harris.