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When It Rains, It Pours: The News Week in Review

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Nature has a morbid sense of humor. As Americans have been gridlocked, grumpy, and childish with each other over the last year over politics and the upcoming election, Nature was just bidding its time. It waited until the very last moment to unleash a torrent of destruction all over the East Coast. Hurricane Sandy has ravaged many states and “could cause about $20 billion in property damages and between $10 billion and $30 billion in lost business…If the damages hit $50 billion, it would make Sandy the second-costliest U.S. storm after Katrina in 2005. Katrina’s overall costs were $108 billion.” [1]

The death toll in the U.S. from Superstorm Sandy neared 100 victims on Friday.

Power is out in many places, including Canada. “Power outages in New Jersey and Pennsylvania have ‘shattered records’ with over 3 million without power…Three nuclear reactors were shut down and a fourth facility is on alert because of the storm. Sandy has even left 145,000 Canadians without power.” [2] The death toll is rising: “The death toll in the U.S. from Superstorm Sandy neared 100 victims on Friday.” [3]

It seems that Nature was hoping, amidst all our squabbling, to remind us of the important things in life — our loved ones, the fragility of existence, our sense of humanity, and the importance of rising above daily disagreements and treating one another with respect, compassion, and love. But Nature forgot how ingenious humans can be when it comes to ignoring the important things in life and carrying on with our silliness.

The headlines locally reveal that very silliness. As millions were out of power and starving on the other side of the country, we had our own moments that made us say, “Oops!” Literally, in fact, when someone hit a 12-year-old girl with a car and then drove off: “A 12-year-old girl was hit by a car a week ago while walking in a crosswalk – and the driver’s reaction has many residents concerned. ‘They rolled down the window and said “Oops,” and they drove off,’ Brooklyn Kolessar told KVAL News. ‘The bruising in her ribs did make it more complicated to breathe at night and she would have a lot of pain,’ said Carla Kolessar, Brooklyn’s mother.” [4]

A Eugene man was ordered to pay more than $1.5 million in restitution after pleading guilty to negligently exposing Sweet Home residents to asbestos particles during his 2007 demolition of buildings at an old sawmill site.

Hitting a kid with a car and then running away from the crime is certainly an “oops” moment. Similarly “oops”-ish is exposing other people to asbestos particles. “A Eugene man was ordered to pay more than $1.5 million in restitution and sentenced to five months of home detention Wednesday after pleading guilty to negligently exposing Sweet Home residents to asbestos particles during his 2007 demolition of buildings at an old sawmill site.” [5]

Of course, if that Eugene man had been sentenced to jail in Lane County, he might have received a “Get Out of Jail Free” card: “Low revenues from the U.S. Marshals Service is forcing the Lane County Sheriff’s Office to make another cut to the jail, reducing the number of beds, once again, for local offenders…The Sheriff’s Office will close another section of the jail by December 1st, 2012 because it’s not getting as much money as it expected from the U.S. Marshals Service.” [6]

It can hard when you do not get as much money as you were hoping for. But that does not mean you should stab people at fast food establishments. And unless you are really into puns, please do not jack people at Jack in the Box: “Authorities are investigating a stabbing that happened near Jack in the Box on 6th Street around 8 p.m. on Friday. According to Eugene Police, the man made his way into the fast food chain after being attacked. Officers on scene said they are not sure of exactly where the stabbing happened, but an investigation is under way. The suspect is still on the loose.” [7]

Speaking of loose: Sometimes you need to loosen up your marriage and rekindle the fire that used to be there. But according to a local therapist, loosening up the marriage might actually involve tightening, like clamps and belts and such: “Stephanie Steele is a licensed marriage and family therapist in Eugene. She said couples are coming to her with a copy of [50 Shades of Grey] in hand. ‘Surprisingly, I have had couples that have actually been reading it together,’ she said. ‘The most beneficial results are when they read it out loud to each other, which I find very interesting.’ Steele has read all three novels. Her biggest criticism of the books: how James generalizes the BDSM subculture…Steele said the real takeaway from ’50 Shades’ is that any relationship needs communication. The two main characters in the book talk a lot about what they’re comfortable with – and what they are not comfortable with.” [8]

Most people, it is safe to say, are not comfortable with aggressive door-to-door sales people. Especially ones that try to force their way into your house. “A fast-talking young woman may be part of a team of crooks employing an ‘un­usually aggressive’ sales pitch to finagle their way into potential victims’ homes, Eugene police Sgt. Lisa Barrong said Thursday. Police in Eugene have received at least a dozen recent complaints about pushy strangers arriving at homes to hawk carpet cleaning products…What’s particularly concerning to police is that in a few instances, the uninvited visitors have barged into local residents’ homes after being greeted at the front door, then commented about items inside a house or questioned people about their daily schedules, Barrong said.” [9]

In general, it is not good when people barge into other people’s homes. Unless the people barging are the police and the homes are homes that have lots of meth. “Narcotics detectives seized 52 pounds of meth and took out a drug cartel moving pounds of meth through Lane and Douglas counties, the Lane County Interagency Narcotics Team said. Law enforcement executed search warrants at addresses in Cottage Grove, Springfield, Eugene and Roseburg on Sunday as part of a multi-month long investigation. Authorities seized approximately 52 pounds of crystal methamphetamine with an estimated street value of $1,000,000.” [10]

Stephanie Steele, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Eugene, says couples are coming to her with a copy of “50 Shades of Grey” in hand.

On the one hand, meth has a street value. On the other hand, votes do not. But since it is an election year, people are willing to do illegal things to get votes, much as addicts are willing to do illegal things for meth. So it came as no surprise this week to hear that, “The Oregon Department of Justice has launched a criminal investigation into possible ballot tampering at the Clackamas County Elections Office. ‘We can confirm we are currently investigating criminal felony violations of Oregon’s elections laws, which allegedly took place in Clackamas County and allegedly involved a temporary county elections employee tampering with cast ballots,’ said Jeff Manning, spokesman for the Department of Justice.” [11]

Speaking of abusing a position of power: “Police arrested a University of Oregon employee on campus Thursday on charges accusing him of sexually abusing at least 3 girls between the ages of 6 and 12…The suspect, a building manager with the UO’s College of Education, has been placed on administrative leave, the University said.” [12]

After a week filled with hurricanes, politics, politicians making hurricanes political, not to mention hit-and-runs and sexual abuse, you might just want to grab a beer and check out. That might not be the noblest solution, but if it is your solution, you are in luck: “A brewery district is beginning to bubble up in Eugene’s Whiteaker neighborhood, and now potential tax breaks, backed by city and county officials, are adding yeast to the mix. The City Council and Lane County commissioners are supporting a proposal to expand the west Eugene enterprise zone, which already includes Ninkasi Brewing Co., to also take in property that Hop Valley Brewing Co. and Oakshire Brewing have secured in the Whiteaker.” [13]

Or you could donate to the Red Cross.

On My Honor, I Will Do My Best: The News Week in Review

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“On my honor I will do my best / To do my duty to God and my country / and to obey the Scout Law; / To help other people at all times; /To keep myself physically strong, / mentally awake, and morally straight.” ~ The Boy Scouts’ Oath

The Boy Scouts’ “Perversion Files” revealed more than 20,000 confidential Boy Scout documents identifying more than 1,000 leaders and volunteers banned from the group after being accused of sexual misconduct with boys.

As both a human being and an Eagle Scout, I was profoundly disturbed to read the reports about the child abuse that went unreported or actively hidden throughout the history of the Boy Scouts of America. The reports, released this week on account of an Oregon Supreme Court decision and entitled the “Perversion Files,” revealed more than 20,000 confidential Boy Scout documents identifying more than 1,000 leaders and volunteers banned from the group after being accused of sexual misconduct with boys.

The Perversion Files come at a time when the Boy Scouts were already under heat for not allowing homosexuals to either serve in Scouting leadership as adults or participate in the organization as teenagers. This had become such a heated debate both within and around the organization that a significant number of Eagle Scouts started publicly returning their Eagle Scout badges to the organization. The organization, however, remained steadfast, claiming that excluding homosexuals was both necessary to the safety of the children as well as demonstrative of the organization’s moral code.

The Boy Scouts have long used the potential for child abuse as a reason to keep homosexuals out of the organization. But new revelations indicate that the Scouts should have focused more on the actuality of abuse than the potential for it. The real threat seemed to not be homosexuals trying to infilitrate the Scouts but rather child molesters already within the Scouts’ leadership:

“An array of local authorities – police chiefs, prosecutors, pastors and town Boy Scout leaders among them – quietly shielded scoutmasters and others who allegedly molested children, according to a newly opened trove of confidential files compiled from 1959 to1985.” [1]

Allegations of abuse in Scouting troops struck a nerve not only nationally, but locally in Lane County. “A Eugene Police officer and Scoutmaster who ‘admitted abnormal conduct with boys’ in 1966 was allowed to resign from both positions, according to decades-old confidential files kept by the Boys Scouts of America and released Thursday by a Portland law firm…A KVAL News review of the files located at least nine so-called ‘Perversion Files’ kept by the Boy Scouts that involved local men.” [2]

Adults crossing the lines of appropriateness with children is a pervasive problem. And it is not unique to the Boy Scouts. Thurston High School had to face this fact this week when, “A 30-year-old man has admitted furnishing alcohol to players he coached on Thurston High School’s freshmen boys’ basketball team. Byron Parra, who resigned his teaching position at Thurston Middle School in July after the criminal allegations surfaced, pleaded guilty last week in Springfield Municipal Court to a misdemeanor count of furnishing alcohol to minors, a court spokeswoman said.” [3]

Children are vulnerable, and these situations place them in horrible situations that can affect them for the rest of their lives. But every now again, some kid comes around that knows just what to do when threatened. Like when you are home alone and people try to rob your house. In the real world, you can’t just booby trap your house like the movie “Home Alone.”

Two companies have begun an experiment to see if they can create a geothermal electrical generating plant at the dormant Newberry Volcano in Central Oregon.

Paityn Mock, a 10 year old girl, knew exactly what to do, because she “has nerves of steel. The 10-year-old Camas girl was home alone when three burglars broke in earlier this week…Mock said she didn’t answer the door Tuesday afternoon because she saw there was a stranger outside. Instead, she hid in the pantry and watched as the burglars broke in through a downstairs window. Mock called 911 and snuck outside to hide behind a tree in the yard and waited for police…Police arrived at the house about 10 minutes later and arrested one of the men, who is now cooperating with them. The other two men got away, but police are continuing their investigation. After the incident, police even gave her a new nickname. ‘They call me the Home Alone girl,’ she said, a reference to the 1990 hit movie that starred Macaulay Culkin.” [4]

Being home alone can be scary. And the fact that she was left by herself at only 10 years old is a bit fishy. What’s also fishy is the smell of fish — especially a truck-load of fish spilt all over the freeway: “Commuters on Interstate 5 sitting in stopped traffic Wednesday morning near Tualatin might be forgiven for thinking the situation stank. Considering the circumstances, it probably did. Oregon State Police said that just before 5 a.m., a semi hauling 10 tons of frozen fish left the southbound lanes of I-5 near Wilsonville and when the driver, Milan Zeba, 53, dozed off and lost control trying to get the truck back on the roadway. The big rig tipped over on the busy interstate just south of the junction with Interstate 205, spilling fish and blocking all four lanes of traffic.” [5]

Speaking of fishy: Elections can get a little fishy, especially when campaign financiers get involved. Local races are not different: “The man behind Citizens United is putting money into the effort to beat the populist Democratic congressman [Peter deFazio]. Conservative litigator James Bopp Jr.’s Republican Super PAC Inc. (RSPAC) purchased $139,985 in advertising on local television stations KVAL (CBS), KEZI (ABC), KMTR (NBC) and KLSR (Fox) between Oct. 3 and Oct. 12, according to Federal Election Commission (FEC) public data records. Bopp formed the PAC with Republican National Committee members Solomon Yue of Oregon and Roger Villere of Louisiana. In the world of campaign finance, Bopp Jr.’s shadow stretches farther than most; he is the legal mind behind Citizens United, the 2010 Supreme Court decision that prohibited the government from restricting independent political expenditures by corporations and unions.” [6]

As it is an election year, debates about political issues can erupt just about anywhere. One of the most explosive political debates is that of alternative energy. And on the subjects of eruptions, explosions, and energy — did you know companies are trying to use volcanic eruptions and explosions as energy?

Two companies have begun an experiment to see if they can create a geothermal electrical generating plant at the dormant Newberry Volcano in Central Oregon. They’re pumping cool water thousands of feet down to crack the rocks. They hope to create fissures that will store millions of gallons of boiling water so it can eventually be drawn to the surface and create steam to turn power turbines. The federal government and private investors have put up a total of more than $40 million for the experiment. The rock-cracking work is expected to continue over the next month.” [7]

All the mudslinging during election year can make me feel sick, in the same way that malls make me feel sick. I don’t like malls, personally. But for some people, shopping at malls is to die for. And for others — well, for one person in particular — the mall is where you literally die:

A body was discovered in the undergrowth between the Riverbank Bike Trail and the Willamette River on Sunday night, near the Valley River Center mall. Eugene Police said that the deceased appeared to be a male transient around 40 years old. Police suspect that he was living in a campsite nearby where his body was found. Police said that the body was found by another transient Sunday evening off of the Riverbank Trail near the Valley River Regal Cinemas. The transient reported the location of the body to mall security, who in turn relayed the information to police.” [8]

Project Truth, a group that travels around to different colleges to promote pro-life beliefs, displayed graphic images of the abortion process in front of the EMU Amphitheater Monday afternoon.

Not everything that happens at malls, though, depresses me. Sometimes they can be places of economic opportunity. For example: “In a spacious room at Gateway Mall in Springfield, David Wells is opening a door of opportunity for vendors like himself. ‘It is a 14,000 square foot space,’ Wells said. ‘We have room for 55 merchants who want to come in and bring a home-based business … and bring it to the mall.’ The new marketplace, called the EuGenius Market, is open to anyone who wants to sell their own inventions or products. The only rules are that vendors can’t sell animals, guns, or knives. All vendors pay a flat fee of $25 for a 10-by-10-foot space.” [9]

Not selling animals, guns, or knives in a crowded, public place is a probably good idea. But what about airing your political opinions with graphically violent images in a crowded, public place? That is apparently up for debate at the University of Oregon:

“Project Truth, a group that travels around to different colleges to promote pro-life beliefs, displayed graphic images of the abortion process in front of the EMU Amphitheater Monday afternoon. Pro-choice student protesters took a place right in front of Project Truth to try to comfort students and to defend women’s rights. ‘We find that their tactics are really wrong. It’s using other people’s suffering for political gain, and it’s just wrong,’  said Aurora Laybourn-Candish, the organizer of the counter protest…’We think abortion is the biggest Holocaust in the world,” Don [from Project Truth] explained, ‘and we have biological facts on our side.’ When asked why his group uses such controversial graphic images in their displays, Don responded, ‘My team has been to over 76 schools, and we hear the same thing at every campus: “I never knew this is what it looked like'”.'” [10]

The fact is, sometimes we don’t know what things look like. Like the many decent and good people in the Boy Scouts that didn’t know what abuse looked like and therefore couldn’t stand up for the abused. But we cannot let ignorance be our excuse. I know I can’t. Because I took an oath years ago to “do my best, to do my duty” to help others and make this world a better place. And that’s something we should all — Scout or not — commit to doing each and every day.

Political Kisses and Sewer Misses: The News Week in Review

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October 11 was National Coming Out Day. An internationally observed day of celebrating individuals who publicly identify as bisexual, gay, lesbian, and transgender, the day was founded in 1988 by New Mexico psychologist Robert Eichberg and National Gay Rights Advocates head Jean O’Leary. They chose October 11 because it is the anniversary of the 1987 National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights.

October 11 was National Coming Out Day.

At the University of Oregon, National Coming Out Day was met with wild fanfare, with rainbow balloons and a parade making its way through the University Street Faire. But advocating for LGBTQ&A rights has evolved over the decades: “Sylvester, who came up with the idea for the banner and planned many of the week’s events, decided to make a last-minute addition to the afternoon’s happenings after experiencing a moment of prejudice earlier in the week. ‘Some of the street preachers said some pretty insensitive things to me,’ Sylvester said. ‘So in response to that I called in a “kiss in.”‘ Sylvester explained that a ‘kiss in’ is an event where people may hug, kiss, or hold hands in protest of homophobia and ignorance.” [1]

Kiss-ins have become all the rage. After the controversial National Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day happened earlier this year, protesters protested back with their own protest: that’s right, a kissing protest. Activists planned “‘National Same-Sex Kiss Day at Chick-fil-A’…As part of the event, couples [were] encouraged to go one of the chicken restaurant’s locations and take a photo or video of themselves kissing.” [2]

Public displays of affection are now political, apparently. And you don’t have to look hard to find other political PDAs, like the Eugene City Council’s public displays of affection for the Downtown Exclusion Zone. But not everyone likes such PDAs: “Instead of allowing the exclusion zone, also known as the Downtown Public Safety Zone, to expire Nov. 30, the council voted 4-4 (with Mayor Kitty Piercy breaking the tie) to extend the zone for another year…[But] Lauren Regan of the Civil Liberties Defense Center plans to file suit against the city in November regarding the exclusion zone and a host of human rights issues related to the homeless in Eugene. Regan has won several legal cases and settlements against the city.” [3]

You don’t have to look hard to find political PDAs, like the Eugene City Council’s public displays of affection for the Downtown Exclusion Zone.

The City of Eugene also ran afoul of public affection when it scheduled a vote regarding the coal train debate without providing the opportunity for public input. “Despite the controversy surrounding coal trains running through Eugene and Lane County, the Board of Lane County Commissioners had scheduled a vote in support of coal trains and the Coos Bay Bulk Terminal for Oct. 3 with no public input. After outcry against the resolution arose, Commission Chair Sid Leiken suggested the vote be moved to Oct. 17. The commission will take public comments at that time, and also at its Oct. 16 vote in Florence.” [4]

Not letting the public weigh in on an important city issue can be perceived as dirty business. But what’s really dirty business is the business of cleaning up sewage mishaps. “A weekend break in a sewer line connecting the Oregon coast communities of Gardiner and Reedsport has sent an estimated 50,000 gallons of raw sewage into the Umpqua River. The World newspaper reports that the Gardiner Sanitary District shut down the line and sewage has been rerouted through a temporary pipe.” [5]

Speaking of sewage spewing everywhere: the Vice-Presidential Debates took place on Thursday night. While the night consisted of mudslinging, smirks, and ad hominem attacks, a rare moment of humility and authenticity arose when the candidates addressed the issue of abortion. “With two Catholics on stage for the first time, [moderator Martha Raddatz] stressed that they ‘talk personally’ about how their religion affects that stance. In a rare and brief quiet moment in the debate, the men obliged. Ryan told the story of seeing an ultrasound of his first child, weeks after conception, at Mercy Hospital in Janesville, Wis. She looked like a bean, Ryan said. And that’s her nickname to this day. ‘Now, I believe that life begins at conception,’ he said. Biden, speaking quietly, said he’s a practicing Catholic. He accepts his church’s opposition to abortion, he said, ‘in my personal life. But I refuse to impose it on equally devout Christians and Muslims and Jews,’ he said.” [6]

The City of Eugene ran afoul of public affection when it scheduled a vote regarding the coal train debate without providing the opportunity for public input.

On the subject of abortion, people disagree pointedly. But on the subject of fugitive child molesters, people tend to have but one stance: Get ’em. Lane County was thus in full alert when news broke that, “One of the 15 most wanted fugitives in the United States is suspected to be hiding in Eugene, the U.S. Marshals Service said Friday. Frederick Cecil McLean is a fugitive child molester who fled the San Diego area in 2004-05. The USMS said he molested dozens of children over a 20 year period while in California, using his position in the Jehovah’s witness Church to find victims.” [7]

On the one hand, fugitive child molesters are in serious violation of the law. On the other hand, drunk Duck funs are not — though they can be a public nuisance. It comes as no surprise, therefore, to learn that, “Eighty-two people were ejected from Autzen Stadium during last Saturday’s Oregon-Washington game. Of that total, 60 spectators were kicked out for alcohol-related violations. Seven of them were issued citations, according to statistics compiled by University of Oregon officials. Authorities ejected 12 more people for unauthorized entry into the game, and three for misusing a ticket. Three spectators — one of whom was cited for assault — were ousted for fighting, and two more for disorderly conduct. One person was booted from the stadium for a drug violation, and another for urinating in public.” [8]

One of the 15 most wanted fugitives in the United States, child molester Frederick Cecil McLean, is suspected to be hiding in Eugene.

But it wasn’t just Ducks fans that got drunk last week. A Duck player got drunk, too. “The Ducks indefinitely suspended a senior defensive tackle who was cited for DUII ‘pending clarification of an incident that occurred Friday morning in Eugene,’ head football Coach Chip Kelly said in a press release. Kelly did not describe the incident or how senior defensive tackle Isaac Remington was involved.” [9]

It is because of situations like this that public safety organizations try to teach people to not drink and drive. But sometimes lessons are hard to teach. Fortunately for Oregon public schools, however, lessons are being taught — and better than they were before. “Oregon education officials have released the report card ratings for public schools and districts. The state said Thursday that 31 percent of Oregon’s 1,155 schools were rated outstanding in 2011-2012 — up from 28 percent the year before. But schools judged to be in need of improvement also increased, from 8 percent to 10 percent.” [10]

Sometimes all a kid needs is someone to look up to as a role model. But in a world of lawsuits, spilt sewage, child molesters, and drunk athletes, it’s understandable why kids these days might feel like something’s amiss.

Sexy Buses and Failed Faith Healings: The News Week in Review

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Sometimes you have a bad day. Maybe your bike tire went flat or you check your bank account and find out you got an overdraft charge. But humans have ways of coping — like reminding themselves, “Hey, it could be worse.” And you know, it could be. You could find yourself with the bubonic plague, like a few months ago when “a Central Oregon man likely contracted bubonic plague from a cat.” [1] That man, Paul “Steve” Gaylord, had a really bad day. But he didn’t have the luxury of saying it could be worse. But it was pretty bad, and then it got even worse.

Two men were observed dumping out case after case of bottled water on the ground before returning those bottles for the five-cent deposits.

After he nearly died from the plague, he “has now lost his withered fingers and toes to the disease known as the Black Death. Doctors amputated the blackened extremities of Paul ‘Steve’ Gaylord in an operation that lasted 2 1/2 hours Monday at the St. Charles Medical Center in Bend. The 60-year-old Prineville man told The Oregonian the surgery was a success but painful.” [2]

And that is the power of human spirit. You get the Black Death, then you lose your fingers and toes, and still you carry on defiantly. “I’m very happy to be alive,” Gaylord said. “I can’t change it. I want to get out of pain and be able to walk again and do things for myself.” [2]

Doing things for one’s self is a liberating activity. Taking matters into one’s own hands can be empowering. Unless you buy water bottles with your own hands with the help of food stamps and pour the water out. Then it is fraud, not empowerment. “Last week, KVAL News reporter Ty Steele saw two men dumping out case after case of bottled water on the ground before returning those bottles for the five-cent deposits…A DHS administrator commented on the video, giving a name to what the men were doing. ‘It’s called water dumping,’ said program manager Richard Whitwer.” [3]

You dump perfectly good water out to get a 5 cent deposit. Because humans are not just defiantly optimistic. They are also clever. Like whoever decided to scam Lane County residents by pretending to solicit donations for Womenspace. “Womenspace directors say someone has been calling local residents claiming to represent the non-profit, soliciting false donations.  One woman told the organization a man called her asking for banking information. Womenspace reps say they never cold call as a fundraising tactic, and would never ask for a donor’s financial information over the phone.” [4]

So don’t give your banking information over the phone. That’s just silly. Similarly silly is starting off your higher education with being arrested for public intoxication. “Officers made 24 arrests and issued multiple citations Friday night in an attempt to keep Eugene’s University District calmer, Eugene Police Department said. EPD was on ‘Party Patrol’ in the neighborhoods to the west and south of the University of Oregon Friday night. During a six-hour period between 9 p.m. and 3 a.m. officers arrested 24 people on charges ranging from consumption, open container and prohibited noise…OLCC assisted with enforcement and response efforts.” [5]

The OLCC helped out, perhaps in an effort to prove it still is relevant after a week in which it got called out for being behind the times. “Large grocery stores…are calling for a more significant change to the liquor laws in the state of Oregon. Proponents (such as Safeway and Albertsons) have stated that much more needs to be done to modernize Oregon’s liquor laws. In fact, the Northwest Grocery Assocation has told the Oregon government that an update to the system was needed. If Oregon does not update the system, says this association, they will push an initiative that would privatize liquor in Oregon, much like what occurred in the state of Washington.” [6]

The Oregon Supreme Court ordered the public release of about 1,200 files dating from 1965 to 1985 relating to Boy Scout sex abuse charges.

This drive to privatize Oregon liquor control, of course, would not be complete without lobbyists. Grocery lobbyists are pushing for the privatization, whereas lobbyists for smaller distilleries and wineries are pushing back. Which raises the question: what do the people want? This was a question raised in another context this week as well: “Many Oregonians see these disastrous consequences of the Citizen’s United ruling, and they have begun to push back. From Coos Bay to Joseph, Gresham to Ashland, people are organizing and standing up for democracy run for the people, by the people — not corporations and other special interests. People in cities and towns across the nation are organizing to pass local resolutions calling on communities to support — and the U.S. Congress to pass — a constitutional amendment overturning Citizens United.” [7]

Citizens should unite and make their voices heard. Some are already doing so — not for overturning Citizens United, per se, but rather marijuana. “Hundreds of patients who rely on medical marijuana, and their supporters, [held] rallies [on Sept. 20] at Obama campaign offices and elsewhere in at least 15 cities in eight states across the country. In Eugene the rally [was held] in front of the U.S. Courthouse. The rallies are ‘an effort to draw attention to the Obama administration’s aggressive efforts to shut down legal medical marijuana grow sites and dispensaries, obstructing the passage of laws that would regulate such activity.'” [8]

The fact is, some activity needs to be regulated. Like sexually abusing kids. “The Boy Scouts of America failed to report hundreds of alleged child molesters over two decades and often left parents in the dark as a means to save face, the Los Angeles Times reported. After reviewing 1,600 confidential files dated 1970-1991 from the century-old organization, the Times found more than 500 instances in which the Scouts learned of abuse directly from boys, parents, staff or anonymous tips, rather than after the incidents were reported to the authorities…The Oregon Supreme Court has ordered the public release of about 1,200 files dating from 1965 to 1985, including some reviewed by the newspaper. Scouting officials told the Times that in many cases, they covered up the allegations to spare young victims from embarrassment. But some of the alleged molesters then went on to abuse other children, according to Scouts documents and court records cited by the Times.” [9]

Maybe what we’ve needed this whole time was just sexier buses.

Speaking of child abuse: In case you didn’t know, if your kid’s appendix bursts, you can’t just pray away the health complications — at least according to the State of Oregon. “Two Creswell parents pleaded guilty to negligent homicide charges in the apparent ‘faith healing’ death of their 16-year-old son, Austin Sprout. Sprout died after his appendix burst in December…The Bellews are members of the ‘general assembly and church of the firstborn,’  a church that believes in healing through faith and prayer rather than seeking medical care…Last year, the Oregon legislature changed the law regarding faith healing. Now, faith-based healing can no longer be used as a defense against manslaughter charges.” [10]

But like I said, it could always be worse. We could be subjected to television ads that try to make public transportation sexy. [11] Or maybe that might make things better. Maybe what we’ve needed this whole time was just sexier buses.

Bees, Bombs, and Bodies: The News Week in Review

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You learn something new everyday. That is part of being human. Humanity has a knack for discovering new things, whether they are exciting, bizarre, disgusting, or revolutionary. This last week, for example, we learned that — despite the Arab Spring — “the fall of dictatorships does not guarantee the creation of free societies.” [1]

This last week, we learned that — despite the Arab Spring — “the fall of dictatorships does not guarantee the creation of free societies.”

We discovered that an anti-Islam video posted on the internet can lead to protests that cause “a number of deaths — including those of the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three others killed in an attack Tuesday in Benghazi, Libya.” [2] And we found out that those protests can cause other protests, “showing support for America and sympathy for [the killed ambassador].” [3]

Clearly, then, not every discovery is met with enthusiasm. Like when you discover a body frozen in ice. “The Pierce County medical examiner’s office says the second of two bodies recently recovered from a Mount Rainier glacier is that of a 54-year-old Springfield man who was one of four people who vanished in January storms…Melting snow exposed the bodies. The medical examiner says all three died of hypothermia.” [4]

Melting snow wasn’t the only revealing liquid this week. Spilt honey south of Eugene revealed a deadly bee disease. “A deadly honey bee disease is looming over honey beekeepers south of Eugene near Loraine Highway. A mysterious white bucket of spilled honey was found a couple weeks ago near the corner of Loraine Highway and McBride Road…That mysterious bucket of honey tested positive for American Foulbrood – deadly honeybee disease. ‘This is an absolute worst case scenario,’ said Morris Ostrofsky, a retired beekeeper in Eugene.” [5]

Speaking of absolute worse case scenarios: some have been arguing that marijuana creates such scenarios for football players. “Tyrann Mathieu, Cliff Harris, Michael Dyer, Jeremiah Masoli, Greg Reid. What do all these familiar names have in common? At one point they were all college football superstars on some of the nation’s premier teams. But sadly, the similarity that has come to define them is that they have all been kicked off their respective teams for, among other things, marijuana use…What’s worse — it is happening all the time.” [6]

A deadly honey bee disease is looming over honey beekeepers south of Eugene near Loraine Highway.

If you live in Eugene, though, marijuana use isn’t the only thing that happens all the time. Car thefts happen all the time, too. Especially if you have an older car. “The National Insurance Crime Bureau has released a list of the top 10 most stolen vehicles in Oregon – and not one of the cars was built before 2002. A 1992 Honda Accord tops the list with older model Toyotas and Ford pickups trailing behind. The report found older vehicles are popular with car thieves because of longevity, value of the parts and they are easier to steal.” [7]

So older cars are easier to steal, at least in Eugene. But what’s proving hard to steal (or use, depending on your perspective) is an extra lane to expand LTD’s EMX line. This has been especially difficult, according to the Eugene Weekly, because “some vocal local opponents disagree and have done everything from littering West 11th with signs to taking out anti-EmX ads on LTD buses.” But the pro-expansion group is fighting back, asking “whether that funding [for the anti-EmX ad campaign] was coming from the conservative anti-tax activists Illinois-based Taxpayers United for America or conservative initiative sponsor Bill Sizemore’s Oregon Taxpayers United.” [8]

It is questionable whether putting up signs on one’s own private property to exercise freedom of speech equals “littering.” But there is no doubt that throwing one’s cigarette butt on the ground fits the description. To discourage people from doing that very thing at public parks, “the Lane County Department of Health and Human Services is playing with the possibility of making parks and campgrounds tobacco free. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, Lane County has a higher rate of tobacco use than the State of Oregon as a whole. By banning tobacco from parks and campgrounds they hope to encourage more people to kick the habbit, as well as cut some clean up costs.” [9]

1992 Honda Accords are the most stolen vehicles in Oregon.

While we’re on the subject of “clean up costs”: some say spraying pesticides all over human beings has those sorts of costs. “In the Spring of 2011, 34 residents from around the Triangle Lake area tested positive to having — among other chemicals —  2,4D in their urine. 2,4D, another weed control pesticide, has been debated as a hazard towards humans…The Oregon Health Authority and the state’s Pesticide Analytical Response Center began investigations as to how Triangle Lake residents were exposed to the pesticide…The Oregon Health Department is continuing its investigations. It is requesting residents who have possession of environmental data such as air, water and soil analyses, to make contact with the OHA.” [10]

Pesticides were not alone in being investigated this week. Also under investigation is the City of Eugene’s downtown “exclusion zone.” “In its first meeting outside the now-closed City Hall, the City Council on Monday discussed the controversial ordinance, which allows authorities to ban people accused — but not convicted — of certain crimes from the downtown core for 90 days…Unless the council renews it, the ordinance will expire on Nov. 30. The council will hold a public hearing on the issue next Monday, and is scheduled to vote on the matter on Oct. 8.” [11]

Banning people from downtown, of course, can create some uproar. But what about banning people from parachuting into an airport? “After six years of bickering about whether skydivers should be able to land at Creswell’s municipal airport, Eugene Skydivers has filed a lawsuit claiming the city’s no-parachuting rules have cost the company about $735,000. In the suit, the skydiving company accuses the city of Creswell of violating a lease agreement when city officials outlawed parachute landing at Hobby Field in 2006. The ban went into effect after private pilots complained about nearly being hit by skydiving planes while flying near the airport.” [12]

The Lane County Department of Health and Human Services is playing with the possibility of making parks and campgrounds tobacco free.

It must have been a hard day in the workplace when Eugene Skydivers first learned about the parachuting ban. But then again, their work involves diving through the sky. Perhaps a harder workplace situation is the one faced daily by those with body modifications. “With certain extreme modifications (including double stretched nostrils at an eight gauge and a facial tattoo), it is very difficult for Surja to find work in the United States. Originally an art student, Surja had to start school over again. But in order to make her way through school, she must work…Most of her jobs have been non-accepting of even her more discrete modifications, asking her to either remove them or cover them up.” [13]

But on the bright side, everyone probably had a better week that whoever discovered that dead person in the glacier. Who even knew that dead people could be found in glaciers?

Like I said — you learn something new everyday.

Watery Graves and Transit Knaves: The News Week in Review

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The Democratic National Convention just came to close. The question on everyone’s mind has been, “Is America better off now than it was four years ago?” At least that is the esoteric question. The more popular question, it seems, is, “Why can’t Bill Clinton be president again?”

Almost 300 people submitted comments on the Lane Transit District’s proposed extension of its bus rapid transit line to west Eugene. Many of them were negative.

Clint Eastwood seemingly upstaged Mitt Romney during the Republican National Conention with his speech directed towards an empty chair — a metaphor for an invisible Obama. The speech began a new trend called “eastwooding.” [1] The news media, of course, was wondering if the DNC could match that with its own brilliance or blunder, depending on how you perceived it. While the DNC did not have Eastwood, it did have Bill Clinton. Clinton’s speech so inspired his base that the internet exploded with comparisons between Clinton and the man he endorsed for President, Barack Obama.

Even TMZ got in on the action. They asked their readers who they prefer, Obama and Clinton. Almost 120,000 people weighed in, with Clinton the favorite at 59%. [2]

It’s always hard when a flood of opinions comes pouring in, and those opinions do not favor you. But Obama has taken it in stride. Lane Transit District, on the other hand, has not taken a flood of opinions as well. “Almost 300 people have submitted comments on the Lane Transit District’s proposed extension of its bus rapid transit line to west Eugene, and many of them were critical of the project…LTD hasn’t yet done a detailed review of the comments but it is clear a large number of them came from opponents, Vobora said.” [3]

The Register Guard apparently did not like the results either, running the story with the title, “Critics flood LTD with opinions: Most of the negative comments were generated by the anti-EmX group Our Money Our Transit.” Their reasoning that the group “generated” most of the comments? The group has a website. And that website “provided ‘click-through’ links to make commenting easier.” [3]

Giving to others is usually a good thing. Unless you’re giving bad smells to your neighbor.

The internet is an amazing tool, you see. It can provide click-through links to provoke political dissent. It also can help raise money for people in need. One family this week hopes to do just that. “[Davien McCarty, a] 17-year-old from Eugene has Asperger’s syndrome..Unfortunately, [his] family’s difficulties have not ended with their son’s Asperger’s syndrome…On May 1, 2012, Winter heard the results from Dr. Dunphy: McCarty has Burkitt’s Lymphoma…That is when Rose Kempton, Winter’s mother and McCarty’s grandmother, stepped in. Kempton saw her daughter’s family struggling and decided to help by creating a fundraising drive on GiveForward.” [4]

Giving to others is usually a good thing. Unless you’re giving bad smells to your neighbor. Like how “a pot patch in southern Oregon stinks — one neighbor says it’s like having a family of skunks in the backyard — and now, she’s asking the City Council to force the grower to keep his plants out of range of her nose…The Ashland City Council has been asked to consider requiring marijuana gardens to be 75 feet from property lines, a challenge in a city with pricey real estate and small lots.” [5]

Ashland wasn’t the only city in Oregon with a pot problem this week. “A narcotics task force searched a medical marijuana club in Eugene and four other addresses in Lane and Douglas counties last Thursday, arresting two men on various marijuana charges…The raid left employees and customers at Kannabosm in shock – and the facility in disarray. ‘Everything was in line with the state laws. All of our paperwork was in order. None of that was even checked,’ said Eric Chavez, Kannabosm manager.” [6]

Having your business raided can understandably lead to shock. But you know what really leads to shock? Finding a dead body. “A man was found dead inside of his boat at Alton Baker park along the shore of the Willamette river, the Springfield Police Department said…They found the subject inside of his pontoon watercraft, which was hung up on the side of the Willamette river.” [7]

Five passing commercial trucks drove through a cow herd, striking and killing 44 cows.

That wasn’t the only dead body found in water, either. “A body found in Cottage Grove Lake could be a suicide based on earlier reports of someone jumping off the dam, the Lane County Sheriff’s Office said. Capt. Byron Trapp said calls came in at 1:37 p.m. reporting a body in the lake.” [8]

This trend of finding dead things was not limited this week to humans. Law enforcement also had to deal with dead cows. “Dozens of cows were killed on Thursday night after wandering onto a highway, where they were struck by passing trucks. Oregon State Police Trooper Clint Prevett said the herd walked onto Highway 97 north of Madras around 11:45 p.m. During that time, five passing commercial trucks drove through the herd, striking and killing 44 cows.” [9]

The farmer who owned those cows will certainly not be happy this week. But if you like having your own backyard farm, you on the other hand can be happy: backyard farming is on the rise and the city of Eugene supports you. “The city of Eugene seems to be more than encouraging in creating the tools necessary for people to build their own urban farms…Besides providing support to non-profit groups, the city of Eugene — through the Neighborhood Matching Grant Program — will provide funding for neighborhood gardens as long as they meet the requirements of the grant and satisfy concerns raised by different city departments.” [10]

Just don’t use your backyard garden to grow weed that smells like a family of skunks. Especially if you have neighbors that are going to wish that you end up in a lake.

Dinosaur Spiders and Blood Puppies: The News Week In Review

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A man used a bomb hoax to successfully rob a Springfield delicatessen.

We live in a scary world. Every day we encounter the unknown — new ways that people can hurt the ones we love, new threats from next door and across the world, and the fact that, even in 2012, we argue about the legitimacy or illegitimacy of “rape.” [1] Yet even amidst the dark times, we see those moments of such kindness and generosity that we can have hope for a brighter tomorrow.

That brighter tomorrow, however, did not start last week. Last week a man used a can of insect repellant to rob a restaurant. [2]

This week, someone appeared to sense that as a challenge. So another man used a bomb hoax to successfully rob a delicatessen. “The robbery was reported at 12:36 a.m. at Patty’s Deli on Olympic Street. An employee said she received a phone call demanding that money be left outside the business, or else a bomb would be set off. The employee did as demanded and then called police…The device did not contain explosives, and no one was injured, police said.” [3]

No one was seemingly injured, either, when an employee at Mucho Gusto served a minor alcohol. But it just so happened that the minor was part of an OLCC sting. “The popular Mexican restaurant at Oakway Center ran afoul of liquor laws when an employee failed an undercover sting organized by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC)…The company chose the nine-day liquor license suspension in lieu of the $1485 fine.” [4]

Not serving liquor for nine days will cost the company a decent chunk of change. But what won’t cost a decent chunk of change, are hair cuts at a local barber shop. “Mick’s Barber Shop has offered free and discounted cuts for over thirty years. The owner says he recently decided to advertise the deal to help more people…Anyone can walk in and get a haircut for no charge or pay what they think is fair.  Clement says his profits are modest, but he’s able to stay in business. Some of his loyal customers will chip in a little extra when they get a trim, to help others who can’t pay.” [5]

What will not create bad blood is the idea of puppies donating blood to other puppies.

Mick Clement wasn’t the only one chipping in extra this week. David Pederson of Sutherlin chipped in, too, to help gather school supplies for needy school children. “He has recently undertaken a school supply drive for the underprivileged youth of Oakland and Sutherlin. His Sutherlin-based production company, Drama Causin Productions, is planning “Overlooked and Underrated,” a “school supply drive and free live hip hop show” for this Friday, August 24…He has already gathered lots of supplies and hopes even more are donated to help the community.” [6]

You know what would also help the community? More parking downtown. And now City Hall is doing just that, for once, though not surprisingly at a cost: “City Hall was permanently closed Thursday afternoon after a brief flag-lowering ceremony at the building that had served as municipal government’s headquarters since 1964…The parking garage under City Hall will remain in use. City employees and elected officials will retain their parking spaces, plus 175 parking spots that until recently were used by the police department and can now be rented to the public for $57 a month.” [7]

City Hall wasn’t the only thing shut down this week. “The city is standing by its order that the Cottage Grove Speedway remain closed until it makes substantial progress on mandated fire safety, environmental, drainage and roadway upgrades. The speedway had pleaded with the city to let the facility open so it could hold a scheduled race tonight.” [8]

On the bright side, the speedway workers can take a vacation. Hopefully, however, they do not spend vacations in central Oregon. “A fast-moving new wildfire is threatening about 100 vacation homes in central Oregon. Central Oregon Interagency Dispatch Center spokeswoman Lisa Clark said the Geneva 12 wildfire had burned across about 1,600 acres or 2 ½ square miles of juniper and sagebrush by Monday night.” [9]

Fires are hard to put out. Unless they are the fires in peoples’ hearts. Eugene lost one such fiery individual this week. “John Musumeci, Eugene-Springfield’s pugnacious and often controversial developer and land speculator, died Friday. He was 66. Musumeci, executive vice president of Eugene-based Arlie & Co., died at his home near Pleasant Hill following a long illness…Musumeci had a reputation for being shrewd, argumentative and litigious.” [10]

Puppies are cute. Spiders are not. Especially spiders called “trogloraptors.”

While Musumeci died surrounded by his loving family, it is undeniable that a shrewd, argumentative and litigious individual can create feelings of bad blood now and again. But what will not create bad blood is the idea of puppies donating blood to other puppies. “A local veterinary clinic in Roseburg has taken blood donation to a new level, but it’s not people their saving – it’s dogs. The American Red Cross has been holding blood drives in Roseburg for years, and their donation bus typically makes a stop in Dr. Bailey’s parking lot. That got him brainstorming. With the aid of some Red Cross supplies, Dr. Bailey’s Vet Clinic has made the Puppy Blood Bank a reality. The need for dog blood transfusions is high, and extremely costly. The clinic held their first Puppy Blood Drive on Wednesday.” [11]

Puppies, of course, are cute. But spiders are not. And finding new spiders called trogloraptors? Even worse. “Trogloraptor or cave robber as it’s known in English, is the new species of spider that was discovered in a cave outside of Grants Pass, Oregon. Amateur cave explorers discovered the creatures and sent them to the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco. Scientists there said that the spider was so different from any other they’d encountered that they decided to create a whole new family to put it in.” [12]

A word of advice: as you fall asleep tonight, try to think about those cute puppies donating blood to other puppies. Don’t think about trogloraptors, or cave robbers, or spiders called cave robbers, or spiders called anything ending with “raptor”…

Trust me on this one.

Hey Girl, It’s the News Week in Review

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This last week Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney announced his choice for vice presidential nominee. That choice? Wisconsin’s Paul Ryan, chairman of the House Budget Committee and a man with “a desire to place the nation’s looming fiscal challenges at the center of the campaign’s final months.” [1]

A robber at a Roseburg restaurant brandished a can of insect repellent.

Consequently, the internet has been abuzz with talk about this Ryan guy. Some of the buzz — well, a tiny bit of it — has been productive and informative. But most of it has been typical internet awesomeness. Ryan has his own Hey Girl [2] Tumblr series, a spoof of Ryan Gosling’s Tumblr series. [3] Author Bret Easton Ellis nominated Ryan to play the male lead in the 50 Shades of Grey film. [4] The fact that Tom Morello, lead guitarist for Rage Against the Machine, got mad at him made news everywhere. [5] And everyone just can’t stop talking about how (cue LMFAO music) he works out. [6].

What might be more productive and informative, of course, is asking whether Ryan is a good running mate. Having a good mate to run with is essential to pulling anything off — whether it is a presidential election or robbing a bank.

Three people learned this the hard way this week. “Three people — one who spent 27 years in prison for murder — could face the death penalty in a case that accuses them of slaying a 22-year-old Eugene man on Aug. 3, the same day they allegedly used the victim’s car to flee the scene of an armed bank robbery in Mapleton.” [7]

Apparently no one on their running team told them that using the victim’s car is a staple in solving most TV crime show episodes.

What you do not see on most TV crime show episodes, on the other hand, is insect repellent. “A robber at a Roseburg restaurant brandished a can of insect repellent and wasn’t deterred when the bartender tried to bat it away. Roseburg Police Sgt. Aaron Dunbar says the robber drove back the bartender late Monday night with a direct spray to the face.” [8]

A Springfield bar owner is facing a $150,000 lawsuit for allegedly airing a bootlegged version of a July 7 Ultimate Fighting Championship bout.

Bartenders can be pesty, but seriously? Seriously, though, what can be pesty is when someone else’s stuff gets in your stuff. Like when “the Oregon Court of Appeals has ordered a temporary halt to state rules that allow an oil-seed crop, canola, to be planted in parts of the Willamette Valley. [Because] Valley farmers who grow related plants for seeds to sell to production growers and gardeners fear canola will cross-pollinate their plants. Opponents also object to genetically modified plants.” [9]

Some say that genetically modifying plants is unethical. Others say that bootlegging UFC fights is also unethical. “A Springfield bar owner is facing a $150,000 lawsuit for allegedly airing a bootlegged version of a July 7 Ultimate Fighting Championship bout. Joe Hand Promotions Inc. of Pennsylvania filed a complaint in Eugene federal court earlier this month, leveling theft of cable signal and conversion charges against Ralph E. Brown of The Country Side Bar and Grill.” [10]

UFC fights, of course, are often about being bigger and better. What got bigger this week, but not necessarily better, is PeaceHealth. “The PeaceHealth health care system has agreed to merge with the Northwest arm of Colorado-based Catholic Health Initiatives, the second-largest Catholic health care system in the country.” [11]

Sudanese officials have freed a Springfield man who was recently rearrested there despite being acquitted of terrorism in connection with a July 3 pro-­democracy demonstration.

PeaceHealth and Catholic Health Initiatives might not be the only groups merging in the near future. Under Oregon proposals, the University of Oregon’s Department of Public Safety might become an official part of the police. “This proposal is part of the Campus Policing Initiative that the DPS hopes to implement through Senate Bills 116 and 405, both currently under consideration on the Oregon House floor. The legislation would allow the DPS to become a sworn police agency and thus on equal footing with the EPD.” [12]

On the topic of equal footing: A man from Springfield was not on it when it came to the Sudanese government. “Sudanese officials have freed a Springfield man who was recently rearrested there despite being acquitted of terrorism in connection with a July 3 pro-­democracy demonstration…Rudwan Dawod, who grew up in Sudan’s war-torn Darfur region, was reportedly beaten and tortured by police and Sudan’s National Intelligence Security Service during his detention. He became a permanent resident of the United States after his September 2010 marriage to Nancy Williams, a Cottage Grove native, and the U.S. State Department had urged his release.” [13]

The U.S. government did not urge, on the other hand, that people drink raw milk. In fact, “The federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) states on their website that, ‘Raw, unpasteurized milk can carry dangerous bacteria such as Salmonella, E. coli, and Listeria’…But despite all of the evidence stating that there are risks associated with the consumption of raw milk, many naturalist consumers have sought to purchase the product for decades.” [14]

And in case you were wondering: Yes, there is a Hey Girl about raw milk, too. [15].

Smoking with Babies, Landing on Mars: The News Week in Review

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The NASA probe Curiosity doesn’t just have a Twitter account, it also has a Facebook account.

Humans are curious creatures. We have an insatiable desire to explore the furthest reaches of our universe. We saw this fact last week, as the NASA Curiosity landed on Mars. “Eight months ago NASA launched the mini-cooper sized probe on a mission to land on, and explore Mars.” Of course, humans are also addicted to social media, so it is fitting that, “Curiosity doesn’t just have a twitter account, it also has a facebook account.” [1]

While the average resident of Eugene might not be able to explore Mars in this lifetime, there are still plenty of areas that are worth exploring. “The Tam McArthur Rim trail is brutal but extremely rewarding. The 5.5 mile trail (round trip) gets its name from a mountainous wall, or rim, that forms a picturesque backdrop for 3 Creeks Lake.” [2]

Some areas, though, are best left unexplored — like strip clubs, for example. While you might argue they have their time and place, they are also arguably not the best place for politicians to be spotted. This explains why “the Oregon House Republican leader who abruptly stepped down last month says he did so in part because of concerns that the public would find out that he and a handful of other GOP lawmakers had visited a topless bar.” [3]

An Oregon House Republican leader abruptly stepped down last month in part because of concerns that the public would find out that he and a handful of other GOP lawmakers had visited a topless bar.

Being a political leader and going to a strip club can be considered less than intelligent. Also considered less than intelligent is smoking while pregnant. “Lane County health managers say that 16% of women who are pregnant in Lane County smoke, and about one in four of that group do so during their first trimester. That’s about six percent higher than other areas around the state of Oregon and significantly higher than all the national averages despite the obvious health complications.” [4]

What is intelligent, on the other hand, is taking care of those less fortunate than one’s self. Demonstrating that even one company can make a difference, “The folks at Delacata want to help a family by supplying school supplies for a child’s upcoming school year.” Delacata calls their act of charity a “Schoolyard Makeover.” [5]

A lucky school-goer will not be the only one getting a makeover. The Eugene Police Department is about to finish their makeover today. “After two weeks of a methodical move, the Eugene Police Department is nearing the end of its transition from City Hall in the downtown to its new $17.4 million home north of the Willamette River, on Country Club Road. The police department has been in City Hall since the structure opened in 1964.” [6]

No more going fast and furious on Country Club Road, people.

16% of women who are pregnant in Lane County smoke. That’s about six percent higher than other areas around the state of Oregon.

Speaking of going fast and furious: drunk people often do that. But drunk people might not have a place to stay the night any more. “The Buckley Center’s sobering station in Eugene will run out of money at the end of September and will be forced to close its doors unless new funding emerges, program director Tom McKee said Monday. If the station were to close, thousands of drunk or high people would be left to sober up on their own in public places, arrested by local police, or rushed to the nearest hospital emergency room, according to Willamette Family Inc., which operates the sobering station.” [7]

Sobering up is good. Sobering up to the facts is even better. Students got a great big dose of sober this week when “the Higher One company, which contracts with Lane Community College to disburse student aid,…agreed to pay $11 million in restitution to students. The company also will pay a $110,000 civil penalty to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.to settle charges of ‘deceptive and unfair practices’ for charging about 60,000 students multiple fees for a single overdraft, for holding accounts open for months while fees piled up and for grabbing the accumulated fees at the start of each new term as fresh disbursements of student aid roll into the student accounts, according to the FDIC.” [8]

Higher One was not the only one to get caught with its hand in the cookie jar. “A longtime Eugene school secretary was sentenced Friday to 22 months in prison for embezzling $18,000 in school funds during her 17 months at Edgewood Elementary School. Cynthia Jo Oberfoell, also the school’s office manager, pleaded guilty in June to five counts of first-degree theft in the case…Oberfoell’s fraudulent purchases ranged from a $3,700 sewing machine to an ‘Alice in Wonderland’ sugar bowl.'” [9]

Most likely Cynthia Jo Oberfoell did not think buying a sugar bowl would be her demise. But sometimes it is the small things in life that make the biggest difference — like releasing invasive species. “Science teachers who want their students to get up close and personal with the natural world may be unwittingly unleashing invasive species into the environment once class is over. A recent survey conducted by Oregon State University researchers found that many science teachers who buy organisms from biological suppliers to use in the classroom release the critters rather than kill them when the science lesson is done. About a quarter of teachers reported releasing live organisms, and 8 percent of those organisms were known to be invasive.” [10]

But on the other hand, in a week filled with space-probes tweeting, pregnant women smoking, and politicians hitting up strip clubs, it might not be clear anymore which species are actually the invasive ones…

Planes Watching Birds: The News Week in Review

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If you follow the news, you likely have heard all sorts of debate over unmanned aerial vehicles — otherwise known as drones. They are aircraft without a human pilot on board. Operated by remote control or an autonomous computer, drones have served many purposes — most notably, military purposes. Nikola Tesla, the famous “mad scientist” known for the Tesla Coil, described powered unmanned aerial vehicles used for combat dating back to 1915. Drones have been particularly controversial as of late: “Since Obama took office, media outlets have reported more than 300 drone strikes in Pakistan targeting al-Qaeda or the Taliban, outnumbering the Bush administration’s drone strikes five to one.” (1)

But the drones that have hit the news lately are of a completely different rhyme and reason. They do shoot, but only photographically. “Oregon officials plan to test drone aircraft taking smartphone photos of seabirds that eat salmon and steelhead heading to the ocean. The Department of Fish and Wildlife wants to see if it can use the technology to get useful, inexpensive photos without exposing human pilots to coastal dangers.” (2)

It is never a good idea to expose one’s self to dangers, coastal or otherwise. An Oregon dairy farmer learned this the hard way, when a methane leak was exposed to a spark. “A co-owner of an Oregon dairy farm says methane that was released from a methane digester ‘caught a spark,’ resulting in an explosion and fire at two large methane tanks. Betty Bielenberg is co-owner of Oakley Farms. She tells The Oregonian that no people or animals were hurt Wednesday afternoon and that the fire was mostly out by the time firefighters arrived.” (3)

An 8-year-old girl from Veneta caught a spark this week, too. But fortunately it was a charitable, not explosive, spark. “An 8-year-old girl is collecting supplies for care packages to send to kids all over the world this Christmas…She’s putting together boxes full of school supplies, hygiene products, and small toys for kids in third world countries.  Autumn’s goal is 100 boxes; she’s about halfway there now, and plans to ship the packages this November.” (4)

Speaking of shipping packages around the world: Netflix does that. And you know who never recovered? Blockbuster. A few weeks ago, Blockbuster announced “the Better Blockbuster Extravaganza,” an event to drive some business its way. “[Blockbuster president Michael] Kelly continued his PR pitch by saying that the video chain has created an easier way to find what customers are looking for and that Blockbuster has nearly 900 store locations (still) which makes them the largest video rental chain nationwide…But really all he’s saying is that Blockbuster is the last survivor of the old way to rent movies. To say Blockbuster is the largest video rental chain in the country is like saying you have the largest VCR store in the nation.” (5)

Of course, if you had the largest VCR store in the nation, people might think you are crazy. And if you are crazy and you live in Oregon, you are in luck: there will soon be a brand new hospital just for you. “Five years after state legislators approved funding to build a new state mental health hospital in Junction City, the construction equipment necessary to build it has finally arrived, bringing new excitement for the city’s future. Contractors have finally started moving dirt on the site of the future Oregon State Hospital in southern Junction City.” (6)

The opening of a new mental health hospital, though, will surely raise all sorts of questions—like, how will you treat the mentally ill? This was a question raised last week about Lane County’s current mental health facility, the Johnson Unit at Sacred Heart. “A 70-year-old man told his own success story, of having gone from checking himself into the Sacred Heart Behavioral Health Services inpatient care program (otherwise known as the Johnson Unit) to, after healing, wanting to volunteer at the Unit. But…according to him, the Johnson Unit only uses medication as therapy and would not allow him to talk to people who similarly did not believe in using medications for mental health problems. He said, ‘The Johnson Unit ignores the fact that medications do not work for 30% of the populace.'” (7)

Whether he is right about medication is up for debate. But what is not up for debate is both human and canine consumption of Springfield’s blue-green algae. “Health authorities have warned people who draw their in-home water from Walterville Pond that the discovery of a high concentration of blue-green algae could put them in danger…The algae produces toxins that can cause numbness, nausea and even breathing problems. No one has died from complications, but four dogs who drank the algae-tainted water have died.” (8)

The humans might have wished they died, though, once they see the Oregon Dental Association’s latest attempt to make brushing cool. “Kids don’t like to floss, but they love to do the Dougie.” So when the Oregon Dental Association was thinking about what to do for their next youth teeth brushing campaign, the choice was obvious: They’d teach their kids how to do the brushy.” (9)

It’s actually a matter for debate, whether kids “love to do the Dougie.” But what’s not a matter for debate is that a man burned down a home the other day to get back at his boss. “A man who approached police at the scene of a burning cabin told a state trooper the home belonged to his former boss and said he started the fire. His reason: He says he’s owed $25,000 in unpaid wages, and figured the cabin was worth about that. Alaska State Troopers say 54-year-old Willard Hutson’s math is a little off. The cabin was valued at $39,000.” (10)

If only that man was an Oregon public employee—then he might have been satisfied with his earnings! “An analysis by The Oregonian has found the formula used to calculate pension for thousands of retired Oregon public employees can be milked to deliver benefits that far outstrip the Legislature’s intent and taxpayers’ expectations.” (11)

Also exceeding expectations is former Duck player Joey Harrington. “Former Oregon great Joey Harrington will be joining FOX Sports as a college football analyst for the network’s college football pregame show, according to USA Today and The Oregonian.The former Duck standout, who accumulated a 25-3 record during his collegiate career, will appear alongside former ESPN reporter Erin Andrews and Ohio State legend Eddie George. Harrington last appeared in an NFL game in 2008 with the Atlanta Falcons.” (12)

Harrington was obviously smart enough to take the next step in his career. The question on the Eugene City Council’s mind, apparently, is “whether people are smart enough to learn to use reusable bags…The Eugene City Council will continue exploring a ban on single-use plastic bags in grocery stores at a public hearing Sept. 17.” (13)

After a week of using military technology to take cellphone pictures of seagulls, methane gas explosions, and a dental association using an outdated rap song to look cool, it makes sense why the Council would worry.