• Local Food Initiative Debate Set: Monday, April 27
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    corn fieldTwo panelists for and two against are set to discuss the upcoming vote on Measure 02-89, time for questions and comments from the audience is also scheduled as part of the evening.  Slated for 7 pm to 9 on Monday the 27th, this forum will be at the Corvallis Branch of the Benton County Library.

    The evening is courtesy of the City Club of Corvallis, like all their programs, this one is free for anyone wishing to attend.  Also like most of this organization’s forums, attendees can expect a lively and respectful exchange between panelists and the audience.

    Speakers will include Rich Holdren, Oregon State University Research Office; Debbie Crocker, Benton County farmer; Clint Lindsey, former Benton County farmer and co-author of measure 2-89; and Mary King, Benton Food Freedom.

    For more information http://www.cityclubofcorvallis.org

    ~Beth Darden

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  • Local GMO Ban on May Ballot: Full Analysis
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    farm tractorSo, what does local GMO measure 2-89 do? What are the pros and cons?

    Ballots will be mailed April 30, and due back on May 19. Measure 2-89 mandates that all genetically modified organisms in Benton County be harvested, removed, or destroyed within 90 days if it passes; it makes use of these organisms illegal after that. The measure envisions  an enforcement regime decided by county supervisors, as well as standing for individual residents to bring legal actions.

    Also envisioned is that the measure would supersede any state or federal laws it may conflict with, including patent laws—it seeks to shift strict liability and costs for removal to patent holders.

    Large parts of this measure may turn out to be unenforceable. Regardless of that, one would most likely vote yes if they agree with the basic premise here—the lawyers can argue about the rest.

    More concerning is the scale of this measure. Some supporters deny that it would kill broad swaths of medical and agro research at OSU, but a read of the measure makes clear that it could, whether intended or not. Beyond this, the measure does not consider the full landscape of genetically engineered organisms in medical treatment and research, or for that matter that their use in crops could become positive at some future point—a solid case could be made for voting against this measure.

    That said, species adaptation ameliorates present claims favoring genetically engineered crops and seed drift can and does contaminate neighboring farms, rendering those crops—as in the case of Eastern Oregon wheat in 2013—unmarketable. There are potential environmental and human health concerns, as research has been broadly inadequate.

    On balance, a reasonable case can be made for a yes vote on Measure 2-89. Federal and state governments have had two decades to respond on this issue, but have only met it with increasing paralysis and apathy.

    Farmers Make Case for Local Food Measure, Here’s Why

    “We had tried every other avenue to protect our seed from contamination by GMOs,” said Dana Allen, co-author of Measure 2-89. Allen explained that farmers in Benton County work together to coordinate a map of plants that are likely to cross-pollinate, but that GMO crops can’t co-exist. “Syngenta walked out of the talks about sugar beets in Southern Oregon,” she continued. “The farmers there already know that you can’t co-exist. We felt that we had to ban the planting of GMOs and patented seeds to protect our food system—we have a really vibrant local farming system that provides a lot of food for Benton County and to surrounding areas.”

    The Willamette Valley is one of the best places in the world to grow a large variety of garden seed crops. “We grow probably 90% of the table beet seed around the world,” said Allen. Yet, “We’ve got some farmers that don’t plant corn anymore because they know there are other farmers close to them who are planting corn that’s a GMO commodity crop.” Organic farmers are at obvious risk for this contamination: organic standards prohibit GMO crops, and seed companies often find GMO contamination in supposedly non-GM crops. But conventional farmers are affected, too; the 2013 GMO wheat found in Eastern Oregon is a case in point—foreign markets halted shipments from conventional and organic farmers alike. “The last thing we want is to have farmers fighting with farmers,” said Allen, who added that one of the petition organizers is a fifth-generation conventional farmer. After the 90-day waiting period and subsequent removal of all GMO crops, the ordinance states that it is the patent-holder, not the farmer, who will be sued if GMO crops are found growing in Benton County. “We did not want farmers being sued, because the harm is coming from the companies that are patenting and selling these seeds under contract, not the farmers who are forced into this.”

    When asked about growers of GMO crops who say they will lose money, Allen mentioned the GM wheat escapee, which prompted many foreign wheat markets to halt imports of Oregon wheat, and said, “That completely destroyed the market. The fear of contamination by our export markets is intense.” She continued, “You have to make a choice—who is the transgressor here? Who deserves the right to plant? To me it is unconscionable that a neighbor can contaminate another neighbor.”

    Some scientists have raised questions on the safety studies that have been conducted on GMOs, with some claiming that many of the studies that seem to show safety have been funded by the very bioengineering companies that stand to benefit from GMO crop sales. Allen doesn’t see the health questions of GMOs as being the main issue for Measure 2-89, but rather cross-contamination and community rights.

    Pesticide Resistance on the Rise
    While the health risks or lack thereof of GMOs may be debatable, pesticide use and pesticide resistance seem to be a clear-cut strike against them. July 2014 news out of Brazil, published in the Scientific American, tells of farmers finding that insects have become resistant to the GMO corn which is supposed to produce the Bt-toxin which would normally kill them. Earlier this month, the EPA looked to set limits on the amount of Bt corn which US growers could plant, citing concerns of increased pesticide use to combat the Bt-resistant corn rootworms. The USDA estimates that 80% of corn planted in the US is now genetically engineered to resist pests via the Bt toxin.

    While there were early claims that GMO crops could reduce pesticide use, research by Washington State University professor Charles Benbrook in 2012 found the opposite. There was a decrease in pesticide use from 1996 to 2001, linked to the traits in main GMO crops. But subsequent years have seen larger increases in rates of pesticide application, translating to a 7% increase in overall pesticide use.

    Glyphosate or Roundup, which the study claims probably has less harmful health and environmental effects than other pesticides, has been the main herbicide that GM crops have been engineered to resist. Roundup Ready crops are not killed by applications of the herbicide, while weeds theoretically are. But, like the corn rootworm, some weeds have become resistant to Roundup. “Glyphosate resistant weeds were practically unknown before the introduction of [Roundup Ready] crops in 1996,” Benbrook wrote; there are now 22 resistant species of weeds, affecting an estimated 50 million acres. The resistance has led farmers to a variety of coping mechanisms including increased herbicide use, manual weeding, and a larger variety of herbicides.

    Dow AgroSciences, in a 2012 press release aimed at opponents of its “technology package” of corn resistant to the pesticide 2, 4-D, is ready to move in on the market: “Farm herbicide use has been steadily increasing for a number of years, and that increase is going to get worse without new agricultural technology like our herbicide-tolerant corn to combat glyphosate-resistant weeds.” They add blithely that “Rates of herbicide application per acre of corn will not increase with our new technology package.” Nevertheless, 2, 4-D resistant weeds have already been documented.

    Studying GMO Safety Studies, Why You Should Worry

    Wading into the debate about GMO safety requires the reader to either slog through hundreds of studies, refutations, and meta-analyses, or throw one’s hands in the air and default to one’s original belief about the subject. Studies abound, but in many cases there is a conflict of interest; a 2011 examination of 94 studies found that while there was no correlation between industry funding and a favorable study outcome, there was a very significant correlation between a favorable outcome and one or more of the study authors having a conflict of interest (p < .001, for the statisticians out there).

    Additionally, nearly half of the studies did not disclose their source of funding. This professional conflict of interest has been documented by other researchers as being strongly related to positive outcomes of biomedical and nutritional studies. On the other hand, only a total of 12 of the studies did have a negative outcome. These negative outcomes have included a list of dramatic health problems in the test animals: stomach lesions, tumors, reproductive issues, and others.

    But in many cases there is scientific debate over the studies. Were there enough test subjects? Was there a statistical difference between the health effects on the control group and the animals fed the GMO crop? Some scientists express concerns that the genes in GMOs, some of which are from organisms that a human would never eat (such as the Bt bacteria), may cause an increase in food allergies. Other authors note that livestock have been fed a GMO diet of corn and soy for almost 20 years and there has been no corresponding surge in health problems among livestock. Some genetic modification is doubtless completely innocuous; more precise modifications for flavor or other characteristics do exist, although they are far outnumbered by modifications for pesticide or disease resistance.

    Lack of Long-Term Studies
    The Public Health Association of Australia and the British Medical Association express concerns that the safety of GMOs has not been satisfactorily demonstrated by long-term studies, with PHAA adding that many animal feeding studies have lasted for only a few weeks, and some have only evaluated animal production characteristics such as weight or milk production. Pro-GMO authors often paint detractors as anti-progress nuts whose paranoia and acceptance of “bad science” reaches a religious fervor. While this is true of some, the anti-science label is used too widely.

    This, unlike the debate over vaccines or global warming, is one where the dangers of taking a cautious approach are nil: it’s a case of “better safe than sorry” with no downside for the “safe” choice. No one will be worse off than they were before the advent of GMOs if they simply abstain. Of course, without a labeling law, abstaining isn’t easy.

    Unintended Consequences for OSU Research, Strongest Case Against Measure

    Measure 2-89 would apply to all of Benton County, and that includes Oregon State University. As a land grant college and research institution, OSU has a lot at stake. If adopted, this measure would essentially halt much of the research conducted at Oregon State, from agriculture to medical.

    The measure bans the planting of genetically modified organisms and calls for the destruction of such materials, likely including materials used for research purposes. If 2-89 applies to research, OSU would be required to destroy research materials that have been used for decades, and the viability of research would be significantly harmed.

    Despite numerous rewrites of the measure to prevent research from being affected by the measure, Steve Clark, vice president of University Relations at OSU, and university faculty continue to lack confidence in the scope of the ballot measure—they fear that it “further opens the door to the implication that OSU research is subject to the law.” While the university, as a state-funded institution, cannot express an opinion on any pending legislation, they can analyze the potential effects, which is what Clark and university staff have done.

    OSU research is active in many fields, from medical to agricultural, and many projects rely on GMOs. Currently, OSU is developing human disease therapy treatments for ALS. This research also involves ways to treat or prevent some types of cancer. GMOs are utilized fairly extensively in this research, and in the agricultural/horticultural research of filberts (hazelnuts). Researchers are working on preventing the effects of the Eastern filbert blight. Oregon is by far one of the most prolific producers of filberts, and the research being conducted will help to limit the effects of the blight, securing income, jobs, and delicious hazelnuts for a ton of people.

    Research is also being conducted to prevent insects that are harmful to crops from reproducing. Instead of killing the insect or pest or spraying produce with harmful pesticides, this research attempts to prevent reproduction of the insects, which is a safer way to cultivate produce and other crops.

    In terms of financial impact, more than 120 faculty in multiple colleges would be affected. Research valued at $18.3 million would be stopped and destroyed; 300 to 400 students, both undergraduate and graduate, would be affected in education or research. People would likely lose their jobs, education would be compromised. Researchers may be hired on to new projects, but if their research ends, it could impact their employment in that activity.

    More importantly, OSU is in the middle of important research that could help a lot of people. From curing diseases to cultivating better produce and reducing the use of pesticides, OSU is trying to do a lot of good through the use of GMO. In reading Measure 2-89, it does not offer research exemptions, and short of a successful legal challenge, it would almost certainly end this sort of work at the university.

    References: Charles M. Benbrook, “Impacts of genetically engineered crops on pesticide use in the US—the first 16 years.” Published in Environmental Sciences Europe, 2012.

    ~Bethany Carlson, Rachel Sandstrom, Rob Goffins

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  • Hard Truths
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    HardTruths_4_23_15by Sidney Reilly

    On Towing the Line
    ESPN reporter Britt McHenry made the news cycle after getting caught on camera ruthlessly berating a towing garage employee. The video is certainly not a good look for McHenry, who’s seen making fun of the weight, education, and dental hygiene of the unseen employee.

    Naturally Facebook was awash in weighty condemnations from moms and uncles across the world. Of course what the world really wanted was comeuppance for McHenry, who fit nicely into a narrative about rich, entitled white people. Her conventional physical attractiveness, mixed with her blond hair and verbal cruelty, made her a ripe target for Internet justice. ESPN responded quickly with what seems like a fairly reasonable and measured response: a one-week suspension.

    But the reaction has been mixed between those who are furious she didn’t have her life ruined and those who oddly believe she is somehow under an assault on her constitutional right to be an A-hole. Oh and there’s a third contingent, mostly online journalists, who are desperately trying to define the real issue. Internet journalism would basically just be Gawker and six blogs about Star Wars if it weren’t for journalists breathlessly racing to post their article “The Real Issue with _____.”

    The most popular candidate for “the real issue” at hand here is that it’s woman-on-woman violence, and that’s the real problem—not just an isolated incident of a woman at the end of her rope berating the attendant at the garage who happened to be unlucky enough to be on shift when she came in to get her car back.

    I sort of miss when issues were black and white. I’d sell my left nut to have one of these two people just be American and the other a commie, like back in the day when news was news.

    On Fundraising
    We’ve entered a dark new corridor in politics and Twitter mobs. After Indiana passed a religious freedom bill that unleashed the Internet kraken on us all a few weeks ago, a small pizzeria became the epicenter of the storm. Memories Pizza said they wouldn’t cater a gay wedding (and we all know how many people are asking a pizzeria to cater their wedding…) and the Internet, the one populated solely by social liberals, mobilized to shut them down.

    Then in response, the other Internet, the one that’s populated solely by social conservatives, mobilized to prop them up. Starting a crowdfunding project that netted them over $800,000.

    Of course both sides were freaking out over nothing, but what’s new?

    Here’s what: a mechanic in Michigan declared he won’t serve gays, in their wedding or otherwise. What are the chances this guy really gives a hoot about homosexuality and isn’t just trying to drum up some crowdfunding from the millions of people out there who it appears have nothing better to do with their money than prop up businesses owned by people with little-to-no business sense?

    I’m not taking bets, but if this guy gets a flood of cash, too, I’m just going to start declaring wildly unpopular things and wait for the small group of people who agree with that horrible thing to just give me money. Seems like a better way to earn money than working.

    On Authenticity
    Remember when performers were all completely full of it and you could count on them to be much tamer in real life than their onstage personas? While parents once feared rapper Ice-T’s street-hardened lyrics, true aficionados recognized him as a harmless breakdancing actor who hadn’t seen “the streets” in years.

    Times change.

    All three members of up and coming rap group Migos were arrested after their performance at a college in Georgia over the weekend. Police smelled the aroma of marijuana emanating from their van (remarkable, the detective techniques needed to catch such master criminals) and found guns and other drugs inside. The group was rounded up as they left stage. They looked unconcerned in their mugshots, which makes sense because we have a long, proud tradition of letting rock stars walk on serious crimes, but I wonder if we’ve turned a new corner in competing outrages.

    By my current checklist, they’re one up for being young minorities terrorized by white Southern police, and then they score another point for being on the right side of the marijuana debate. But they lose major points for being gun owners and driving gas-guzzling, non-hybrid tour vans. Plus they make a lot of money, so they’re rich. By my math, these guys will find little sympathy, or coverage at all, in the mainstream press. But stay with it, the math on these stories can get confusing.

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  • Unintended Consequences for OSU Research
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    corn fieldby Rachel Sandstrom

    Measure 2-89 would apply to all of Benton County, and that includes Oregon State University. As a land grant college and research institution, OSU has a lot at stake. If adopted, this measure would essentially halt much of the research conducted at Oregon State, from agriculture to medical.

    The measure bans the planting of genetically modified organisms and calls for the destruction of such materials, likely including materials used for research purposes. If 2-89 applies to research, OSU would be required to destroy research materials that have been used for decades, and the viability of research would be significantly harmed.

    Despite numerous rewrites of the measure to prevent research from being affected by the measure, Steve Clark, vice president of University Relations at OSU, and university faculty continue to lack confidence in the scope of the ballot measure—they fear that it “further opens the door to the implication that OSU research is subject to the law.” While the university, as a state-funded institution, cannot express an opinion on any pending legislation, they can analyze the potential effects, which is what Clark and university staff have done.

    OSU research is active in many fields, from medical to agricultural, and many projects rely on GMOs. Currently, OSU is developing human disease therapy treatments for ALS. This research also involves ways to treat or prevent some types of cancer. GMOs are utilized fairly extensively in this research, and in the agricultural/horticultural research of filberts (hazelnuts). Researchers are working on preventing the effects of the Eastern filbert blight. Oregon is by far one of the most prolific producers of filberts, and the research being conducted will help to limit the effects of the blight, securing income, jobs, and delicious hazelnuts for a ton of people.

    Research is also being conducted to prevent insects that are harmful to crops from reproducing. Instead of killing the insect or pest or spraying produce with harmful pesticides, this research attempts to prevent reproduction of the insects, which is a safer way to cultivate produce and other crops.

    In terms of financial impact, more than 120 faculty in multiple colleges would be affected. Research valued at $18.3 million would be stopped and destroyed; 300 to 400 students, both undergraduate and graduate, would be affected in education or research. People would likely lose their jobs, education would be compromised. Researchers may be hired on to new projects, but if their research ends, it could impact their employment in that activity.

    More importantly, OSU is in the middle of important research that could help a lot of people. From curing diseases to cultivating better produce and reducing the use of pesticides, OSU is trying to do a lot of good through the use of GMO. In reading Measure 2-89, it does not offer research exemptions, and short of a successful legal challenge, it would almost certainly end this sort of work at the university.

    Read more ...
  • Studying GMO Safety Studies
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    strawberry fieldsby Bethany Carlson

    Wading into the debate about GMO safety requires the reader to either slog through hundreds of studies, refutations, and meta-analyses, or throw one’s hands in the air and default to one’s original belief about the subject. Studies abound, but in many cases there is a conflict of interest; a 2011 examination of 94 studies found that while there was no correlation between industry funding and a favorable study outcome, there was a very significant correlation between a favorable outcome and one or more of the study authors having a conflict of interest (p < .001, for the statisticians out there).

    Additionally, nearly half of the studies did not disclose their source of funding. This professional conflict of interest has been documented by other researchers as being strongly related to positive outcomes of biomedical and nutritional studies. On the other hand, only a total of 12 of the studies did have a negative outcome. These negative outcomes have included a list of dramatic health problems in the test animals: stomach lesions, tumors, reproductive issues, and others.

    But in many cases there is scientific debate over the studies. Were there enough test subjects? Was there a statistical difference between the health effects on the control group and the animals fed the GMO crop? Some scientists express concerns that the genes in GMOs, some of which are from organisms that a human would never eat (such as the Bt bacteria), may cause an increase in food allergies. Other authors note that livestock have been fed a GMO diet of corn and soy for almost 20 years and there has been no corresponding surge in health problems among livestock. Some genetic modification is doubtless completely innocuous; more precise modifications for flavor or other characteristics do exist, although they are far outnumbered by modifications for pesticide or disease resistance.

    Lack of Long-Term Studies
    The Public Health Association of Australia and the British Medical Association express concerns that the safety of GMOs has not been satisfactorily demonstrated by long-term studies, with PHAA adding that many animal feeding studies have lasted for only a few weeks, and some have only evaluated animal production characteristics such as weight or milk production. Pro-GMO authors often paint detractors as anti-progress nuts whose paranoia and acceptance of “bad science” reaches a religious fervor. While this is true of some, the anti-science label is used too widely.

    This, unlike the debate over vaccines or global warming, is one where the dangers of taking a cautious approach are nil: it’s a case of “better safe than sorry” with no downside for the “safe” choice. No one will be worse off than they were before the advent of GMOs if they simply abstain. Of course, without a labeling law, abstaining isn’t easy.

    Read more ...
  • Farmers Make Case for Local Food Measure
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    farm tractorby Bethany Carlson

    “We had tried every other avenue to protect our seed from contamination by GMOs,” said Dana Allen, co-author of Measure 2-89. Allen explained that farmers in Benton County work together to coordinate a map of plants that are likely to cross-pollinate, but that GMO crops can’t co-exist. “Syngenta walked out of the talks about sugar beets in Southern Oregon,” she continued. “The farmers there already know that you can’t co-exist. We felt that we had to ban the planting of GMOs and patented seeds to protect our food system—we have a really vibrant local farming system that provides a lot of food for Benton County and to surrounding areas.”

    The Willamette Valley is one of the best places in the world to grow a large variety of garden seed crops. “We grow probably 90% of the table beet seed around the world,” said Allen. Yet, “We’ve got some farmers that don’t plant corn anymore because they know there are other farmers close to them who are planting corn that’s a GMO commodity crop.” Organic farmers are at obvious risk for this contamination: organic standards prohibit GMO crops, and seed companies often find GMO contamination in supposedly non-GM crops. But conventional farmers are affected, too; the 2013 GMO wheat found in Eastern Oregon is a case in point—foreign markets halted shipments from conventional and organic farmers alike. “The last thing we want is to have farmers fighting with farmers,” said Allen, who added that one of the petition organizers is a fifth-generation conventional farmer. After the 90-day waiting period and subsequent removal of all GMO crops, the ordinance states that it is the patent-holder, not the farmer, who will be sued if GMO crops are found growing in Benton County. “We did not want farmers being sued, because the harm is coming from the companies that are patenting and selling these seeds under contract, not the farmers who are forced into this.”

    When asked about growers of GMO crops who say they will lose money, Allen mentioned the GM wheat escapee, which prompted many foreign wheat markets to halt imports of Oregon wheat, and said, “That completely destroyed the market. The fear of contamination by our export markets is intense.” She continued, “You have to make a choice—who is the transgressor here? Who deserves the right to plant? To me it is unconscionable that a neighbor can contaminate another neighbor.”

    Some scientists have raised questions on the safety studies that have been conducted on GMOs, with some claiming that many of the studies that seem to show safety have been funded by the very bioengineering companies that stand to benefit from GMO crop sales. Allen doesn’t see the health questions of GMOs as being the main issue for Measure 2-89, but rather cross-contamination and community rights.

    Pesticide Resistance on the Rise
    While the health risks or lack thereof of GMOs may be debatable, pesticide use and pesticide resistance seem to be a clear-cut strike against them. July 2014 news out of Brazil, published in the Scientific American, tells of farmers finding that insects have become resistant to the GMO corn which is supposed to produce the Bt-toxin which would normally kill them. Earlier this month, the EPA looked to set limits on the amount of Bt corn which US growers could plant, citing concerns of increased pesticide use to combat the Bt-resistant corn rootworms. The USDA estimates that 80% of corn planted in the US is now genetically engineered to resist pests via the Bt toxin.

    While there were early claims that GMO crops could reduce pesticide use, research by Washington State University professor Charles Benbrook in 2012 found the opposite. There was a decrease in pesticide use from 1996 to 2001, linked to the traits in main GMO crops. But subsequent years have seen larger increases in rates of pesticide application, translating to a 7% increase in overall pesticide use.

    Glyphosate or Roundup, which the study claims probably has less harmful health and environmental effects than other pesticides, has been the main herbicide that GM crops have been engineered to resist. Roundup Ready crops are not killed by applications of the herbicide, while weeds theoretically are. But, like the corn rootworm, some weeds have become resistant to Roundup. “Glyphosate resistant weeds were practically unknown before the introduction of [Roundup Ready] crops in 1996,” Benbrook wrote; there are now 22 resistant species of weeds, affecting an estimated 50 million acres. The resistance has led farmers to a variety of coping mechanisms including increased herbicide use, manual weeding, and a larger variety of herbicides.

    Dow AgroSciences, in a 2012 press release aimed at opponents of its “technology package” of corn resistant to the pesticide 2, 4-D, is ready to move in on the market: “Farm herbicide use has been steadily increasing for a number of years, and that increase is going to get worse without new agricultural technology like our herbicide-tolerant corn to combat glyphosate-resistant weeds.” They add blithely that “Rates of herbicide application per acre of corn will not increase with our new technology package.” Nevertheless, 2, 4-D resistant weeds have already been documented.

    References: Charles M. Benbrook, “Impacts of genetically engineered crops on pesticide use in the US—the first 16 years.” Published in Environmental Sciences Europe, 2012.

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  • What Measure 02-89 Does… Pros and Cons
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    ???????????????????????????????by Rob Goffins

    Ballots will be mailed April 30, and due back on May 19. Measure 2-89 mandates that all genetically modified organisms in Benton County be harvested, removed, or destroyed within 90 days if it passes; it makes use of these organisms illegal after that. The measure envisions  an enforcement regime decided by county supervisors, as well as standing for individual residents to bring legal actions.

    Also envisioned is that the measure would supersede any state or federal laws it may conflict with, including patent laws—it seeks to shift strict liability and costs for removal to patent holders.

    Large parts of this measure may turn out to be unenforceable. Regardless of that, one would most likely vote yes if they agree with the basic premise here—the lawyers can argue about the rest.

    More concerning is the scale of this measure. Some supporters deny that it would kill broad swaths of medical and agro research at OSU, but a read of the measure makes clear that it could, whether intended or not. Beyond this, the measure does not consider the full landscape of genetically engineered organisms in medical treatment and research, or for that matter that their use in crops could become positive at some future point—a solid case could be made for voting against this measure.

    That said, species adaptation ameliorates present claims favoring genetically engineered crops and seed drift can and does contaminate neighboring farms, rendering those crops—as in the case of Eastern Oregon wheat in 2013—unmarketable. There are potential environmental and human health concerns, as research has been broadly inadequate.

    On balance, a reasonable case can be made for a yes vote on Measure 2-89. Federal and state governments have had two decades to respond on this issue, but have only met it with increasing paralysis and apathy.

    Read more ...
  • Hard Truths: Superior to Flaccid Fibs
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    HardTruths_4_16_15by Ygal Kaufman

    A January Reuters poll showed that nearly a third of Americans agree with the statement “Police routinely lie to serve their own interests,” with another quarter stating they were “unsure.” It also reported that nearly 40% believe they unfairly target minorities. So why is it that when we depict them on TV we can’t help but identify with their need to violate civil rights?

    If one were to judge by Facebook or Twitter posts, or if one were to turn on cable news on any channel except FOX, they might be fooled into believing we take the routine violation of our civil rights by police officers as not just a serious problem, but among the most serious we face as a nation. This week’s revelations of two horrific killings of unarmed suspects by police have prompted a new wave of hashtags seeking justice.

    But then turn on the TV for scripted programming and what do you find?

    Show after show, from the comedic police drama (Battle Creek) to the hardened cop genre (Chicago PD) is basically built around the concept that cops who cut corners end up getting the job done for the better of society at large. Or worse, that when society will do nothing, we need incredibly violent vigilante defenders, sometimes in uniform and sometimes with their complicity, to come in and quite literally bust heads (Daredevil, Gotham).

    Ironically it’s Hollywood’s ultra-liberal defenders of every cause that they hear about, regardless of whether they understand its complexities at all, who perpetrate this obscene hypocrisy.

    You know me, at least if you’ve ever read this column before; I’m no scold. I’m not advocating for boring TV and movies that don’t show any of the complexities and gray areas of life. That doesn’t help anything, least of all the arts. But do you think we’ll ever see a piece of scripted drama that highlights the problems we really face as a culture?

    A person is far more likely to have their property or currency unlawfully seized (and never returned) by police over suspicion of a crime then they are to be victimized by some mastermind that requires extralegal handling from a crusading cop or superhero. Wouldn’t that make for exciting TV?

    Or maybe for once we could just get a movie where an Internal Affairs officer is actually the protagonist?

    Brilliant writers like the great John Milius gave us cops like Dirty Harry, and as far as authoritarian goons go (and I mean that with only love and respect) both Milius and Harry Calahan are admirable heroes.  But their ultimate conceit, that it’s foolish to believe you can get justice by following the rules, is the ultimate irony. What’s really foolish is to believe that most of the guys breaking the rules are doing so with pure intent and successful results.

    The truth of it is that while occasionally justice might require a police officer to bend the rules, and while it is certainly true that not all or even most police do bend the rules, in aggregate we’d be much better served by police who follow the letter of the law in spirit and in word.

    And ultimately it’s (for once) not a partisan issue. Liberals have long been on the side of the accused, but conservatives and libertarians interested in limited government and maximum personal freedom are also largely on the same page about this. Certainly it would be unfair to take a handful of extremely ugly events, such as the recent spate of police shootings of minorities, as the measure of the policing done by all of our officers across the country. But it’s also willfully ignorant to sit back and pretend that small abuses aren’t widespread, and that they hurt this country no matter what the color of your skin is.

    Perhaps the first step is to stop fetishizing bad behavior on Sunday night and decrying it on Monday morning.

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  • Seismic Justice: Benton Courthouse Quake Will Kill
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    Courthouseby Maggie Nelson

    On this week’s theoretical forecast, the Benton County Courthouse is foreseen collapsing to rubble in a 6.0 earthquake.

    If you do a Google image search for “Corvallis, OR,” you’ll find pictures of pensive hikers posed in front of lush backdrops, Oregon State University, Winco—not sure what that is all about—and the iconic Benton County Courthouse. The Benton County Courthouse is a landmark for the community and true Corvallisites are darn proud of this structure. Constructed in 1888, the Benton County Courthouse is the oldest active courthouse in Oregon and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1986. It’s a monument this community identifies with and is identified by.

    Cannot Withstand a 6.0 Quake

    As far back as 2001, however, it was made clear to Benton County that the courthouse would not be structurally sound in the instance of an earthquake. Between 2001 and 2002, Endex Engineering performed a study which revealed that the courthouse, although considered structurally sound for its age, is unfit for seismic resistance. The study revealed that under seismic pressure, “the building would not perform to the Life Safety level.” In other words, when Corvallis is shaken by a sizable earthquake—which it is due for, based on the average number of earthquakes in the Cascadia Subduction Zone—the courthouse is going down and likely taking the lives of those jurors and bystanders and civil servants inside with her.

    Stepping into the courthouse, the evidence of structural neglect is striking. Stairwells, mortar, and doorways seem to bend and crack under the weight and movement of the building right before your eyes. But if this lack of attention is so evident, you may be wondering why no one has done anything to fix the poor ole gal up and possibly avoid fatalities and future lawsuits. The answer, unfortunately, is not a simple one, and indeed no single person nor entity is to blame. It would also not be fair to refer to this simply as neglect—rather more a problem within bureaucracy and the slight issue of a $4 to $8 million cost estimate.

    Concerns Renewed

    This year, on Jan. 15 a Structural Integrity Stakeholders Meeting was held to discuss the current structural status of the courthouse and future plans for getting the building into proper seismic ready status… or maybe it was just to discuss how unlikely the latter is as a plausible outcome. Either way, via a flashy and informative PowerPoint, Josh Wheeler, Corvallis Public Works Department director, made it quite clear that the “building is not structurally sound for seismic conditions.”

    Wheeler and Joe McCormick, a consultant from Pillar Consulting, a local engineering firm that performed a walk-through of the courthouse last fall, further discussed topics such as “Life Safety” of the building, what fantastic condition the courthouse is in for its age, and ways to avoid the stagnancy that has plagued any serious action from being taken thus far. The toughest issue seems to be the cost. According to Wheeler, there is very little money available for restoring the courthouse, and getting that money is an entirely different and more challenging problem when there are health facilities and jails in the county which also require funds and attention.

    In terms of stability, the courthouse is a safe building…on a day-to-day basis. According to an assessment done in 2008 comparing Oregon’s courthouses, we aren’t looking too shabby.

    “Benton County’s courthouse was 15th best out of 48 courthouses with respect to its Life Safety rating [a rating of 3.67 out of 5, where the lowest county had a rating of 1.0],” said Wheeler.

    In an attempt to compensate for the inability to take action, Wheeler argued that “Many of the courthouses [as well as bridges, buildings, etc.] throughout the state of Oregon have risks associated with a seismic event.” While this is a valid statement, perhaps we should not boast about how well we hold up appearances, and take some necessary and possibly lifesaving changes instead. After all, this is a building that sometimes requires one’s presence by law, like for small claims actions and jury duty.

    Any Hope of Action?

    Wheeler is not an antagonist here. He’s not necessarily individually to blame; in fact, the issue truly lies far out of his reach. He is, however, putting forth some effort to take action, like putting the courthouse’s facility maintenance person on what I’ve deemed “crack watch.” According to Wheeler, “The cracks are being watched on a daily basis.” Don’t worry folks, someone who is definitely qualified to analyze seismic activity and preparation is ensuring those cracks don’t split town.

    Beyond crack watch, Wheeler promises an analysis of the building which will be evaluated on three levels ranging from safety of those inside the building to overall stability of the courthouse.

    “The analysis will create conceptual designs and cost estimates to provide the board with anticipated costs of improvements,” added Wheeler.

    From here another stakeholders meeting may be held, sometime around mid-spring, then the conceptual designs and a cost estimate will be provided for the County Board to make a final decision as to how much funding will be given, if any. This process may take anywhere from 6 to 12 months, according to Wheeler. No company has been signed on as of yet to provide the analysis, in which case, we can probably count on a time estimate closer to 12 months.

    Considering Wheeler and the rest of the Public Works Department seem to be doing what they can, within reason, I believe they need community support rather than prosecution.

    If any real changes are to be taken this time around, the County Board needs to be convinced that it’s worth the $4 to $8 million in renovations and structural reinforcement, and worth denying money to other county buildings and facilities. Let’s hope that in the meantime the Cascadia Subduction Zone doesn’t get dosed with its overdue quake and our beloved courthouse stays standing.

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  • Business Unusual
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    Andy Tetrick 3Not everyone at the bar is the same widget inspector as the widget salesman down the bar. No siree, there are those that follow the rhythm of their own psyche—and they are interesting people that do interesting things. The one thing they share, quite often: it is the thing that preoccupies them that becomes their occupation.

    Corvallis Becomes a Two-Bike Cab Town
    By Dave DeLuca

    There are different ways to measure the growth of a community. Rather than depending on dry metrics like population density, real estate values, or land annexation, I like to look at issues related to bicycles. After all, we are nationally recognized as one of the most bicycle-friendly cities in the country, with over 10% of us pedal commuting on bike lanes found on over 98% of our main roads. And, as of March, we have two pedicab companies.

    Corvallis Pedicab has been transporting people by bike since March of 2009. Owner Dan Crall can regularly be seen pedaling through the OSU campus or downtown, cheerfully offering his services to passersby. In addition to acting as a taxi for hire, Corvallis Pedicab’s two bikes and drivers are available for special events such as weddings, birthday parties, and festivals. Crall loves being his own boss and has no regrets about self-employment.

    “For my lifestyle, this is a most rewarding career path and role to have filled in Corvallis, and I look forward to continually serving the community through this useful, fun form of transportation,” he said. “At age 34 and with a family of four, I am happy to be where I am, and living the dream.”

    Corvallis’ new pedicab is driven by Andy Tetrick, who is a 40-year resident of our little town. Andy’s Bike Cab had its inaugural business day on March 5. Tetrick can be found biking around downtown, campus, and Kings Boulevard on most days from about 10 a.m. to
    6 p.m. His services are also available for special occasions. He’s proud to provide another eco-friendly transportation alternative in Corvallis, and hopes that having two pedicabs in town will benefit everyone. He has nothing but compliments for his competition.

    “Corvallis Pedicab is a viable and valuable business to our community and Dan Crall is a great guy,” Tetrick said. “I think whatever is good for the pedicab business—exposure, competition, and/or working together—can only help us both. What helps either one or both of us helps the community.”

    Both pedicab companies are licensed and insured. For rates or to arrange a pickup, call Dan at 541-609-8949 or visit www.corvallispedicab.com, or call Andy at 541-908-1441 or visit www.andysbikecab.com.

    Good Afternoon… Toxicology Dark Horse
    By Rachel Sandstrom

    Brian Lee is an independent toxicologist. His company, Good Afternoon Toxicology, assesses consumer products for toxins and recommends changes. He calls himself a “dark horse” and it fits. He is soft-spoken and seems meek, but when he talks about his work, it is with tenacity and vigor. He is called in to trials as an expert witness, or a technical consultant, and helps his side win through science. It’s one of the great loves of his job when, as he says, “I’ve helped my side obtain a fair settlement with the help of science and reason.” He is able to use his PhD in environmental health and toxicology from the University of Cincinnati in order to help consumers, according to Lee, “by reducing or removing a product hazard.”

    Toxicology is not always flashy like in CSI, but Lee is on the front lines, keeping the public safe from corporations that couldn’t care less about the public’s well-being by detecting poisons with science. Before he worked for himself, he worked at the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) which, according to their website, “is charged with protecting the public from unreasonable risks of injury or death associated with the use of thousands of types of consumer products under the agency’s jurisdiction.” Basically, Lee is a superhero. He goes undercover and protects the public from toxins in toys, phones, ink, and other everyday products.

    Beyond expert witness duty at trials, Lee has even posed as a consumer in order to get better information from a corporation. His unorthodox methods carry over into his personal life. Having his own company allows him to enjoy life while he has the energy. He loves the science, but his favorite job thus far is the one he is currently in. He says that “while it is hardly the one with the best income, it gives me better control over my work product and flexibility in work schedule. While the work demand is not consistent, the various open periods allow me to engage in volunteer community and church activities. I don’t have to wait to be retired to do these.”

    He is living the dream, able to work enough to sustain himself, but also able to work when he wants to and live where he chooses. He feels semi-retired and loves that he can enjoy his life and work at the same time, instead of having to wait. He gets to save the world on his own schedule, all the while wishing the world a good afternoon. Lee will detect poisons in your product, help win the trial against the offending product, and surprise you like the dark horse he is, as it happens.

    An Accidental Fitness Business: JessBFit
    By Kyra Young

    Are you a child at heart? Do you love to exercise? How about climb mountains? You can now be all three things if you take classes from JessBFit! Jess Beauchemin grew up in Rhode Island and went to college in New Jersey for marine biology. She taught high school biology for two years in Massachusetts. After recognizing that she needed a life change, mountains, and people who appreciated the outdoors, she moved to Portland. After teaching high school for six more years, she decided that she wanted to be more involved in health, fitness, and nutrition so she moved to Corvallis to study dietetics at OSU. She began JessBFit to help put herself through school, but enjoyed it so much she decided to do that full-time. In what she calls a “totally unexpected chain of events” she found a way to help people, follow her passions, and be true to herself.

    Beauchemin’s current programs are natural movement classes that teach students the fundamentals of human movement. These fundamentals include crawling, climbing, walking, running, balancing, lifting, carrying, throwing, and catching. She puts these movements into sequences that challenge endurance, creativity, and that help students conquer their fears. Students work individually, in teams, or in partnerships, meet in both indoor and outdoor locations, and build confidence while learning how to move better throughout their daily lives. Locations even include playing on playgrounds—what fun!

    The most ambitious of Beauchemin’s programs is called Train to Climb. There are three sessions: Mt. St. Helens, South Sister, and Crater Lake. These sessions are held in the spring, fall, and winter, and run about 10 to 12 weeks. They include weekly fitness classes, monthly skills workshops, and monthly training hikes. By the end of each program, the participants are prepared to climb, or snowshoe at Crater Lake. They develop the skills to judge their abilities, pack, dress, and prepare for the planned hike. Each person can hold their own in the mountains, and develops camaraderie with their teammates. It’s a trip of a lifetime and you don’t want to miss it.

    Beauchemin is also a personal trainer. She meets with people in their home or business and works one-on-one to set up  fitness and health goals. Usually the focus is on bodyweight exercises, but she can also train clients with kettlebells, resistance bands, sandbags, and other types of equipment. She offers counseling on nutrition and behaviors that the client can work on outside of the sessions.

    Finally, Beauchemin is also active in the business industry. She offers private group classes to small businesses who are concerned about the health and wellness of their employees. She currently holds meetings at A&S Accounting once a week. Participants meet in the hallway and train together. Business classes are a great way to get employees to interact with each other in a positive and stress-free way. According to Beauchemin, “It’s loads of fun and we laugh every time.” She is looking to recruit more businesses to help improve the health of their employees.

    All of the classes are “truly for everyone, and movements can be modified to suit individual needs,” according to Beauchemin. The groups are very welcoming, and are supportive to all newcomers; they are not boot camp-style classes. Beauchemin encourages mindful movements that challenge mind and body. She is looking for people who have felt frustrated by the fitness industry and gyms in general, and who would like to feel encouraged to play again.

    Learn more at www.jessbfit.com, or find JessBFit on Facebook.

    Mr. Fixit: Because Smartphones Break
    By Kirsten Allen

    In case you’re one of those avid iPhone people, there’s a place in town you should know about. Sooner or later, chances are you’ll end up with a cracked or shattered screen, and need a place to go get it fixed. Of course, it’s not just the iPhone users who deal with broken charging ports, flashlights stuck on, and seemingly harmless apps infecting their hardware with viruses. Androids, tablets, you name it—if you have an issue, Jamie Altman and his team at Mr. Fixit are an option to consider.

    Due to customer requests, with all the breaches and hacking out in the world, the crew at Mr. Fixit is planning classes on cell phone security. Altman is not yet sure when the classes will begin, although he expects them to be held monthly, lasting about an hour.

    Altman has a history of building computers and tinkering with software, so opening a cell phone and tablet repair business seemed natural to him. When he’s not busy with repairs, Altman spends time researching and reading up on all that is new in the tech world, which is enough reading and researching to keep anybody busy. Having just encountered this small shop, located in downtown’s Madison Plaza, I have yet to work with them, so hit Yelp for some reviews and maybe the shop’s Facebook page to find out about classes.

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  • Hard Truths
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    Lies Go Down Smoother

    By Sidney ReillyHardTruths_4_9_15

    Last week, South African comedian Trevor Noah was named the heir to Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show. Instantly people began googling the name trying to find out who he was and if he was funny. Jury’s still out on the second question, but as to the first; we all know who he is now. A comedian.

    Of course that does mean that his twitter account had some off the cuff jokes he tried out, and when the Offensive Outrage Police Service (OOPS), as I call them, scoured his account, they found some things to be, to use one of their favored phrases, “problematic.”

    You see, Noah had in the past made jokes based off stereotypes about different groups (can you believe it? A comedian using stereotypes? I know, I was blown away…), including Jews, women and the obese. The OOPS troops mobilized on social media for an old fashioned career burning. Vox, the self appointed arbiters of morally correct liberalism on the internet, deployed a helpful “explainer” (that’s what they specialize in, “explanatory journalism,” which roughly translates to “news for dummies”) on why some offensive comedy is okay, but not this kind, and how everybody wants to have a sense of humor, but we all have to know when that’s not okay. It even included this unintentionally hilarious subhead: “A Daily Show host should be held to a higher standard than other comedians.” Oh brother. Jon Stewart’s reign as flawlessly inoffensive liberal trend setter has now elevated the position to that of basic cable’s Pope.

    Twitterers lined up dutifully with their pitchforks and torches, but then a funny thing happened on the way to the bonfire: other comedians started popping up voicing support for their beleaguered colleague. Jim Norton penned a thoughtful and thought provoking piece for Time which posited that we actually get an endorphin rush from being so gravely offended and that’s why we are in such a hurry to twitter-pillory anyone who dares make us uncomfortable with their humor. Patton Oswalt joined in the growing defense chorus with a 53-tweet barrage satirizing the situation perfectly. Noah did the smart thing and stayed quiet.

    Now it looks like the whole “controversy” will blow over and the young comedian will take his seat at the throne when Stewart retires later this year. What did we learn?

    Not much.

    For starters is the troubling nature of the groups Noah offended. While his comedy could be seen as anti-Semitic, Jews are not really a sacred cow anymore, particularly when other minorities are the “offending” parties, as in Noah’s case. And I think we all know too well that the obese are only a protected species in very specific scenarios, like high school prom or co-ed dorm horror stories. Women are experiencing a renaissance of sorts in the level of their protection by the soldiers of OOPS, but Noah’s comments were not quite grotesque enough in their phrasing to warrant a full measure response. So his subsequent survival of the scandal is not in itself a miracle.

    The real test of this hopefully newfound thick skin would be if another comedian, perhaps a white heterosexual male, would actually offend a protected group. Will other comedians step into the fray and risk their own careers to stand up for him? I’m not holding my breath.

    Jim Norton’s article made an interesting hypothesis, but I don’t believe he’s actually correct: it’s not that we get high on being offended, it’s that nobody wants to be on the wrong side of the social media mobs. Which is why I don’t think Noah’s survival is a sign of things to come. We’ve gotten so far ahead of ourselves, we’re reflexively staking claim to offenses-taken, lest some future judge of such things scour our online footprint and find us on the wrong side of some cultural issue. Nobody wants to be left looking for a chair when the music stops.

    And while the rescue cavalry of beloved and big name comedians who rode to Noah’s defense was spiriting, it didn’t really portend any change in the waters. Like clockwork, another grave thought crime was committed this past weekend. On his HBO show, Bill Maher made a racially insensitive joke at the expense of newly departed One Direction member, Zayn Malik.

    You can already hear the OOPS cadets are sharpening their twitter bayonets, and heads are going to roll.

    It’s all very problematic…

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  • Not So Fast on Free Tuition Proposal
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    Community Colleges Not Entirely on Board or of One Mind

    LBCCsign2

    President Obama proposed two free years of community college at the 2015 State of the Union address. Highlights include tuition-free classes for students maintaining at least a half time school schedule, a GPA of 2.5 or higher, and making steady progress toward a degree or transferring to a four-year institution.

     

    Obama maintained that “bright, striving Americans are priced out of the education they need,” and that this situation is “not smart for our future.”

     

    While community college is already the more affordable option, the gap is closing. In only 10 years, tuition per credit at Linn-Benton Community College (LBCC) has steadily increased from $40.24 in 2003 to $93.80 in 2013, and this does not include fees. That means that a local student taking 15 credits would have shouldered a financial burden of $645 for tuition and fees per term, not including books and living costs. Total tuition and fees at LBCC are $1,485.10 per term, $4,455.30 per year. Compare that to Oregon State’s $3,040.57 per term ($9,121.71 per year) cost for tuition and fees.

     

    But what are the community colleges saying about this?

     

    Dr. Gregory Hamann, president of LBCC, stated that free tuition “must support student productivity, equity, and quality,” and wonders if there is a “more effective means of applying limited resources to the goal of increased post-secondary degree and certificate completion.” He urges “educational leaders and the Legislature to give serious consideration to [other] approaches before putting significant resources into ‘free tuition.’” Hamann seems to not be totally against free tuition, but thinks that there are better, other means to reach the same or better ends. That seems to make sense; the president of the college needs to get paid somehow, and resources are limited no matter how much enrollment increases, which is a concern for the colleges if this bill passes.

     

    Dr. Jeremy Brown, president of Portland Community College (PCC), said that the “details of the President’s proposal would need to be tailored to meet specific needs at the local level; it is encouraging that aid will be available to community college students, including those in greatest need.” Ultimately, the sentiment from Brown was that the scope of free tuition wasn’t quite large enough. He wants to continue to offer resources that help students reach their goals. He is excited to work with the community and the partners of the college to improve access to higher education, saying that “no matter where this specific proposal goes, we’re committed to working with our partners at every level on the critical issues of affordability, access, and quality that are at the heart of our mission.”

     

    Both college presidents seem to have the same ultimate goals in mind—they are concerned with continuing to offer resources to their students, both current and future. They want to improve access, but are somewhat concerned that the proposal is either not enough, or too much. Either way, it’s good to be talking about these issues. Community college is at the heart of many personal narratives, but rarely on the national stage. For the United States president to be talking about making community college affordable for all may be just the discussion starter we need.

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  • Remains of the Season for Stage
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    Drama and Music from Now to Summermajestic2
    Corvallis is a lucky town. Theater is not nearly as prevalent as it once was on the national scale, but within our little hamlet lies a bevy of theatrical talent with many theaters within which to display their talents.
    As the theatrical season winds down, with all the drama heads retiring into hibernation for the summer, The Advocate takes a look at what is on display to make audiences laugh, cry, or scratch their heads in the coming months.
    We will start right here in town with Oregon State’s drama department and the Majestic Theatre, before taking Route 20 down to hit up the Albany Civic Theater for their dramatic wares.
    Starting our journey through theater, we first turn our eyes to the students at Oregon State University. Oregon State’s drama department is finishing up their latest season, titled “War and Remembrance,” which opened with the likes of Mother Courage and Her Children, The Diary of Anne Frank, and most recently featured Strange Snow.
    Next up on the slate for the collegiate actors is Dolly West’s Kitchen by Frank McGuinness. Running through back-to-back weekends starting May 7 at 7:30 p.m. at Withycombe Hall’s Main Stage, McGuinness’ very dark and very Irish play focuses on the mental stressors of war. Dolly West’s Kitchen is set in 1943’s Ireland, with the Second World War pushing an Irish family to their limits. After Dolly West comes home, issues of sexuality, nationalism, and loyalty drive the West family apart, with the eponymous kitchen serving as the physical space within which they travel these terribly complex social issues.
    To finish their season, OSU’s Theatre re-opens the Withycombe Hall Lab stage to the annual Spring One-Act Festival. This four-day event, starting on June 3 at 7:30 p.m., allows the drama department to present plays that are student-directed, student-written, or both. Over the course of four days, audiences are given a look at raw young talent performing pieces that will either be remembered as the beginnings of a bright young director’s career or as a footnote in a college student’s junior year, immortalized on a Facebook feed right above “Weed was legalized today, Funyuns here I come.” Either way, the potential blend of talent and train wreck is well worth the price of admission.
    Next on our theatrical tour is the downtown darling under new management, Majestic Theatre.
    The Majestic has a ton of smaller events lined up, but only two major plays. One of said major plays is the musical Les Miserables. Running most days from May 8 through May 24, the Majestic helps prove that Victor Hugo’s timeless novel cannot seem to die. After a resurgence in popularity, thanks to the 2012 Tom Hooper-directed flick, more and more local theaters seem to fall back on this popular theatrical staple. Les Miserables tells the story of Jean Valjean, a Frenchman on the run from the law who tries to atone for his life’s sins during the French Revolution by singing a lot and causing grown men to cry in their theater seats. Or something like that. It is good. Go see it.
    Second up for the Majestic is Kiss Me Like You Mean It, a more modern piece exploring the lasting effects of romance in unorthodox situations. This comedy represents a more modern look into relationships and romance on the whole. So tread lightly, things might get a little too real for lovelorn audience members. Written by Chris Chibnall, the creator of BBC show Torchwood, this play runs on two consecutive weekends starting July 17.
    Beyond the grand musical of revolution and the comedic exploration of relationships, the Majestic has a lot to offer. On the last Sunday of every month, the Majestic puts on what they call Majestic Reader’s Theatre, offering a stripped-down alternative to the bigger production plays, where community directors and a small cast perform in a more intimate setting, the Majestic Lab. Along with that, the Majestic is looking to host a number of other events from burlesque shows to bluesy barbeques.
    Alas, our journey nears its end as we skip town and head over to Albany for one last tear-soaked taste of theater on the stage of the Albany Civic Theater (ACT).
    ACT has a fairly diverse schedule of plays ahead of them, entering the musical realm with the fever dream of a tale The Wizard of Oz. Running every weekend from May 1 to May 23, The Wizard of Oz follows the epic tale of the young Dorothy traveling through the land of Oz. Discovering the virtues of courage, intelligence, and caring, Dorothy discovers that “there is no place like home.” You know. Classic sappy stuff. Note: Pink Floyd will not be provided.
    After the sunshine and innocence of The Wizard of Oz, ACT is looking to put on Independence, a play of true domestic chaos. For two consecutive weekends starting on June 12, audiences will discover the story of Evelyn Briggs. Evelyn has to deal with the chaos of her lesbian daughter’s desire to cut ties with the family, her other pure and virginal daughter’s sudden pregnancy, and her youngest daughter’s desire to leave home after high school. Needless to say, drama ensues.
    In an effort to bounce back from the mental dramatics of the month prior, ACT continues its train with the meta Footlight Frenzy. Starting July 10 and running through three weekends up to July 25, Footlight Frenzy focuses on a PTA group’s attempt to save their bankrupt school through a big benefit play written by a former Broadway director. Jumping between the chaos on stage and behind the scenes, audiences get a slapstick look into the chaos of theater.
    And to finish our tour and ACT’s schedule, Albany travels to Neverland with J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan. Right at the start of summer, Peter Pan runs three weekends starting Aug. 14 and wrapping up on Aug. 29. A flying young man in a green leotard, Peter Pan accosts three young children and kidnaps them. Peter brings the children to a land of pirates and tick-tocking crocodiles. It is frightening and not at all for children. Side note: it is a brilliant piece of fiction that entertains children around the world. Ignore me.
    Clearly, Corvallis has you covered when it comes to classical theater goods. From ambitious plays like Footlight Frenzy to classics like Les Miserables, Corvallis proves to be a worthy hub of interesting theatrical content. Go watch more plays.
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  • Build It, Ride It
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    By Kirsten Allen
    Team Dirt Progresses, Next Project Fundraising OngoingBikeTeam
    In 2007, Mike Ripley founded a mountain bike club as a way for those who rode mountain bikes to get involved in trail work in a team environment brimming with trail knowledge. It began in Starker Forest—however, eight years later Team Dirt is looking to expand existing trails in Alsea Falls.
    Team Dirt, a club central to Corvallis and Albany and a chapter of the International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA), has launched the Indiegogo campaign Build It, Ride It to raise upwards of $60,000 to purchase machinery and tools that would make the construction of trails faster, safer, and more sustainable. At press time, they have raised a respectable third of that, with two weeks to go.
    The trails would add to the existing seven miles already at Alsea Falls, and would provide mountain bikers in Corvallis and surrounding areas a destination that isn’t two hours away. There will be beginning, intermediate, and advanced trails, offering fun for bikers at all levels.
    “We really want to do something that’s more accessible to families, or just somewhere you can go after work,” said Dan Coyle, a member of Team Dirt. “The trails would provide something for everybody, and be built sustainably.”
    When Team Dirt became a chapter of IMBA, it gave them more legitimacy and leverage. Since then, Team Dirt has received grants through the Bureau of Land Management, who owns the Alsea Falls land, for IMBA to machine build trails. Some trails would be designed by IMBA experts, but for the most part a Team Dirt trail coordinator would be designing and flagging trails. IMBA would then send out trail experts to critique them, and once that’s all said and done BLM then comes and approves them.
    Team Dirt wants to develop about 35 miles of intermediate and advanced trails, which could easily take decades if done by hand. Being that this is Corvallis, the word sustainable is flung around quite often, but when it comes to mountain bike trails, it’s especially important. The trails have to hold up to constant wear, not to mention Oregon’s wet weather. Trails that do this can and have been built by hand, but it’s backbreaking work. Corvallis has an impressive volunteer base,  but having machines to move all the rock and dirt and volunteers come behind and shape the trail is not only safer, it just makes sense. It’s not reasonable to manage 30 people swinging hand tools, and clearing slash is no easy feat. In the unfortunate event of injury, the whole project would be put on hold while there was an investigation.
    Along with the planned trails in Alsea Falls, Team Dirt has partnered with OSU’s College of Forestry to begin a pilot trail-building project in MacDonald Forest. The trail, currently being flagged by Doyle, would be called No Secret. Located north of McCulloch Peak, No Secret is planned to be an intermediate trail, but difficulty of access will keep traffic down and weed out those not as serious about getting to the trail. “Hopefully OSU will be excited by No Secret and want to sponsor authorized, purpose-built trails,” stated Doyle.
    In the past, unauthorized mountain bike trails have been built throughout OSU research forests. According to the College of Forestry, “In an effort to prevent the re-construction of unauthorized trails in the area, OSU Research Forests decided to support the official building of a safer and more sustainable trail offering a similar type of experience.” They continued, “Public involvement efforts in 2013-’14 showed that opportunities for mountain bikers were one of the greatest unmet recreation interests on the OSU Research Forest. The No Secret trail is the first primary use mountain bike trail to be created on the OSU Research Forests and represents a pilot test to determine if this model of partnership and trail development could work again in the future. For this pilot test to be successful, the resulting trail will be socially, environmentally, and financially sustainable, serve the mountain bike community well, and encourage appropriate mountain biking etiquette.”
    The Build It, Ride It campaign, however, focuses primarily on Alsea Falls. According to Ripley, mountain biking attracts a diverse range of folks, and can be sustainable, engaging, and fun for all levels. The campaign will be wrapping up with a movie night at the Whiteside on Saturday, April 25 with the film Sea Otter. There will also be a raffle in which people can win prizes ranging from helmets to bikes.
    If you’re interested in getting in on a little trail-building action, check out the Alsea Falls Trail Builders Facebook page. Team Dirt hosts an official build day once every month from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., with a BBQ to follow. On these days, which are announced on the Facebook page, builders are able to do shuttle rides on the pre-existing trails. To see a cooler than anticipated five-minute video showing what the Build It, Ride It campaign looks like from a trail-builder’s perspective or to make a donation, visit www.indiegogo.com/projects/build-it-ride-it.
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