March 28-April 3, 2007

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By Patricia Lynn Henley

Burning wine

Mark S. Anderson, 58, of Sausalito, was arrested March 16 on charges that he torched a wine warehouse in Vallejo in October 2005, destroying more than $200 million worth of high-quality vintages. Anderson's clients paid a monthly fee to store their wine in his warehouse. A federal grand jury recently indicted Anderson on charges that he sold his clients' wine without their permission then attempted to conceal the embezzlement by burning down his Wines Central warehouse on Mare Island. According to federal officials, the building held bottles from more than 90 wineries and 40 collectors. Anderson's 19 federal charges included one count of arson, with a maximum statutory penalty of seven to 20 years, and nine counts of mail fraud, with up to 10 years for each count.

On the death of . . .

Press releases are statements sent to the media in the hopes of prompting a story, preferably a favorable one. The California governor's office releases a veritable flood of these missives, ranging anywhere from two to 20 or more in a single day. They outline Arnold's daily schedule, boast of legislation he's signed, name his nominees to statewide posts and proclaim his views on an apparently limitless range of topics. Slipped in quietly between the photo ops and corrections to the corrections of the latest list of appointees are the ones titled, "Gov. Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of" which go on to name a Twentynine Palms marine, a Bakersfield soldier, a Hemet sailor. Each contains a quote, purportedly from the governor. "Maria and I join all Californians in expressing our gratitude for Lance Corporal Timberman's noble sacrifice. Harry served with profound patriotism to protect and preserve our nation's cherished way of life. We offer our prayers for his family's healing as they cope with his painful loss." "Private First Class Garcia lost his life in his pursuit to deliver freedom to the oppressed. Alberto honorably served our nation with bravery and selflessness. Maria and I pray for Alberto's family, friends and fellow soldiers as they mourn the loss of a loved one." "Lance Corporal Howey embodied ultimate selflessness. Blake bravely served our nation's armed forces and sacrificed his own life in his determination to bring freedom to the oppressed. Maria and I extend our condolences to Blake's family, friends and fellow Marines." Designed to be picked up by hometown newspapers praising fallen heroes, no two quotes are alike. Who writes them? A high-level press secretary or a faceless bureaucrat? Does the governor actually read them before they go out, or are they just one more facet of the perpetual-motion press office?

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