Opinion, Analysis, Discussion
Celebration of our wilderness
2014 marks the 50th year since Congress enacted the Wilderness Act. Some of the grandest landscapes of America were given protection so future generations of Americans could experience them. Cities and countryside alike, Americans across the nation are celebrating this golden anniversary. Here in our precious Umpqua, there have been events in honor of the Wilderness Act. Coming up are two exhibits of artwork that focus on wilderness.Learn more »
Money won’t fix our VA system
I worked as a registered nurse at the Roseburg Veterans Affairs Medical Center for 28 years. I worked long term care, acute care, the Intensive Care Unit, ambulatory care and home telehealth.Learn more »
Proxy message lacked respect
I’ve been employed by the Douglas County Health Department for 11 years.Learn more »
Hope, Change: they’re a Croc
Obama unloosed a pair of evil crocodiles with the contrived names of Hope and Change. The final outcome of this deception will be his demise —eat him they will!Learn more »
Reconsider the health services
While I was happy to finally see an article in The News-Review regarding the transfer of public health services to the state, I was distressed to read that neither the county nor the state has a plan in place. In fact, I question the necessity of this transfer until further facts are known.Learn more »
Current policies creating chaos
The president, in my opinion, has committed a traitorous act. By his actions, he is allowing access on our southern border by all comers, including terrorists, drug dealers, gang members, and countless unsponsored men, women and children.Learn more »
As agents for the Transportation Security Administration were profiling me last week at the Denver Airport — which appears to be staffed, incidentally, by the Taliban — I thought a bit about how far we’ve come since 9/11.
“Are we safer today than we were that September day in 2001, when 19 lunatics changed airport travel forever?”Learn more »
Douglas County lost a fine newsman Saturday. That was the day City Editor Don Jenkins turned in his key to The News-Review with plans to head up Interstate 5.
Don isn’t leaving journalism. He’s headed back to his home state of Washington, back to the job that drew so many of us to this occupation. He’s going to be a reporter again, this time at the Capital Press.Learn more »
On Aug. 20, 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Economic Opportunity Act. The act created a variety of programs that are still active and effective today and that had a significant impact in Douglas County.
These programs include Job Corps, Head Start, Community Health Centers, Foster Grandparents, RSVP, Senior Companions, Senior Centers, Legal Services, College Work Study, Adult Basic Education, Small Business Loans, VISTA, Community Action Agencies like United Community Action Network, and more.Learn more »
Teens earn awards
Hard work and dedication to meeting goals paid off for Douglas County teenagers Emily Hopfer, Sianna Casey and Marissa Morrow.Learn more »
Letter: Roseburg Veterans Affairs Medical Center care providers are professional, friendly, efficient and patient-orientedAugust 15, 2014 —
Workers earn appreciation
While visiting my grandchildren in Roseburg, I injured my eye and had to seek medical help. Since I was eligible for medical care at a VA facility, I called the Roseburg Veterans Affairs Medical Center and was informed that I should go to their Emergency Room.Learn more »
Support UCC’s HNS project
I’m a disabled veteran who received an opportunity to return to school for retraining. I started at Umpqua Community College in 1995, at age 39, with some college experience in California. I was required to take science classes in my program of study. Some of the classrooms were adequate for lectures, but chemistry, biology and physics labs were severely outdated and limited in space for students attempting to complete related assignments. This is still a problem 19 years later.Learn more »
Where green grass grows
I am responding to the individual with the ongoing complaint of dead grass at the Roseburg National Cemetery Annex. May I suggest that she attend the beautiful Quarterly Service that will be held at 1 p.m. on August 21. Possibly her personal grass issues will be laid to rest as we join in honoring our veterans.Learn more »
Brady HVPA is wrongly applied
Jim and his wife, Sarah, worked tirelessly to pass the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act. As far as I can ascertain, many claims of accomplishment are made about this law, but groups and organizations who support it never mention all of the expense and aggravation caused by it.Learn more »
Not only has the entire Department of Veterans Affairs system been described as having a “corrosive culture” in a recent White House review, but staff from Roseburg VA have accurately described poor employee morale, pressure from leadership to falsify data, lack of transparency, restrictions on providers’ ability to care for veterans, failure of safety issues to be addressed, liberal use of inappropriate disciplinary action by administration against doctors and nurses, and retaliation for whistleblowing.
Why would anyone work at Roseburg VA? Many of our staff are themselves veterans and believe that we are responsible in combat and in peace for not leaving anyone behind.Learn more »
Hopes rose this year that federal lawmakers would pass a bill to increase logging on Oregon & California Railroad trust lands.
But at some point, reality must sink in. Waiting for Congress has been futile.Learn more »
Letter: Roseburg Veterans Affairs Medical Center’s moral, patient care is reflected through its leadershipAugust 12, 2014 —
is essentialLearn more »
Release their true potential
We call it Mother Earth, and like women in our societies, we have abused our planet, too.Learn more »
Ban cruel and unusual death
Like most of the civilized world, I’m against the death penalty. Even though 35 states in the USA have banned capital punishment, we still rank in the top five in the world for execution. China, Iraq and Iran are the top three.Learn more »
The truth about Israel-Hamas
I found The News-Review’s July 29 “cartoon” extremely disturbing in its distortion of the facts concerning the situation with Israel and Hamas. The first drawing depicts one rocket with “AN EYE” painted on it coming towards Israel; the second depicts Israel responding with 13 rockets coming towards Gaza, all saying “FOR AN EYE,” implying that Israel is going overboard in its response to Hamas.Learn more »
Letter: Oakland resident reports kind and caring staff, Emergency Room waits only slightly longer than at MercyAugust 11, 2014 —
VA experiences were positive
My World War II veteran father and my Vietnam veteran husband both receive all of their medical care at the Roseburg Veterans Affairs Medical Center. Dad has gone there for more than 20 years and my husband for 10 years. Dad has received care in both the Roseburg facility and the Portland hospital; my husband has received his care at five different VA facilities in four states.
We’ve had a very positive experience with all of our interactions with the VA. The longest wait we’ve encountered is a few weeks. The Emergency Room is busy and there are sometime waits for testing, but compared to the ER at Mercy, the wait times are only slightly longer.
The Roseburg VA has seen Dad through a heart attack and my husband through cancer treatment. We have unfailingly been treated well. The day after a treatment, the VA calls to see how things are going and ask if we have any questions. The doctors, nurses and staff have always been kind and caring.
Yes, because of Roseburg’s rural setting, it has a lot of medical staff turn-over. My mom had three different doctors in the same office in Roseburg in four years.
Due to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the VA patient load nation-wide has gone up 50 percent, but they’ve only been able to hire 9 percent more staff. The VA treats nine million veterans annually and sadly, there are going to be some problems in a system this large. It’s been my experience in life that every office, government or civil, has its share of difficult people, and there are always those in authority that you wonder how in the world they were ever promoted. But there are also those who do a good job.
Publishers Notebook: What we don’t get from the VA for $153 billionAugust 10, 2014 —
All you need to know about the problems with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is in the middle of a recent congressional bill that will dump another $17 BILLION into its failed health care system over the next three years.
“The legislation will give the VA secretary authority to fire immediately poor-performing senior executives. They would have seven days to appeal, with final resolution 21 days later.”
In other words, the VA secretary currently does not have the authority to do that, which essentially means we have had a government agency with a $153 BILLION annual budget employing more than 300,000 people whose senior management has had little or no accountability.
Any questions so far?
The fact that we actually had to include that sentence in a bill that will add another $10 BILLION to the federal deficit makes me sick enough to want to go the VA hospital, if I could get an appointment within the next six months.
In typical government fashion, the thought process believes that the VA’s problems can be traced to money and that all we need to do is dump another $17 BILLION into it and … boom … problem solved.
Our public school system operates with the same mind-set. “Spend more money and the kids will be smarter.”
Unfortunately, we are spending more than $15,000 per student per year on our public schools and America seems to be getting dumber by the day.
There hasn’t been any accountability there, either.
Math isn’t my strong suit, but my math tells me we are spending plenty to care for our veterans. This year, the VA was projected to spend $153 BILLION to care for 6 million veterans. That’s … hold your breath … $25,500 per veteran.
And the VA employee-to-veteran ratio leads you to believe that staffing is not the problem, either. More than 300,000 employees ought to be able to handle 6 million veterans (20 veterans per employee), especially when you consider that the 300,000 employees work every day and most of those 6 million veterans served last year did not require daily attention.
Most private hospitals would kill for an employee-to-patient ratio like that, which is why some started to wonder why it took 78 days to complete a disability review for a disabled veteran.
You can get a lot done in 78 days if you put your mind to it. In fact, you can get a lot done in 78 days even if you don’t put your mind to it, and if you can’t determine the eligibility of a disabled veteran in less than 78 days with 300,000 employees, you should be fired, not given more money.
So it’s good to hear this $17 BILLION emergency VA funding bill at least allows that to happen in 21 days — maybe.
If the Department of Veterans Affairs were a private business, it would have fired its CEO long ago and hired a new one, who would probably have come in and cleaned house.
When your customers and employees are saying you are doing a rotten job, it’s time to go.
Let’s take a look at the recent “Performance Report” for the VA hospital system, courtesy of CNN:
2006 — Two teens steal a laptop computer and external hard drive containing personal information for 26 million veterans.
2009 — VA sends letters to more than 3,000 who may have had colonoscopies at the VA center in Miami informing them that they may have been exposed to HIV. (Dear Mr. Ackerman, Hope this finds you well and that your colon is in good shape. We regret to inform you that …).
2011 — Nine Ohio veterans test positive for hepatitis after routine dental work at an Ohio VA clinic.
2013 — CNN investigation shows that veterans are dying because of the long waits and delayed care at VA hospitals.
2014 — A retired VA physician tells CNN that the Phoenix Veterans health care system maintained a secret list of patient appointments, designed to hide the fact that patients were waiting months to be seen.
The Roseburg Veterans Affairs Medical Center’s performance record is flagged with red, highlighted by a survey in which 30 percent of its employees indicated they were instructed to falsify patient appointment records.
In an editorial last week, we said it was time for Roseburg VA Director Carol Bogedain to resign, something she indicated she has no intention of doing.
That’s up to her.
We can only hope the latest congressional bailout will provide the leverage her bosses seem to require in order for the decision to be made, with or without her consent.
Our soldiers have always operated with accountability. Every military officer knows the consequences that come with duty and responsibility. History is littered with good men and women who have been relieved of duty for failure to meet the expectations of their superiors and themselves.
It’s about time we held the civilian executive officers charged with caring for our veterans to that same standard.
• News-Review Publisher Jeff Ackerman can be reached at 541-957-4263 or email@example.com.
Editorial: Roseburg VA review must reveal parties responsible for falsifying informationAugust 10, 2014 —
The concerns of our local veterans will once again be heard in a town hall meeting.
After being ordered by new Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald to hold a public meeting before the end of September, the Roseburg Veterans Affairs Medical Center promptly scheduled a forum for Sept. 4. The agency even scheduled it in the evening, when more people should be able to attend and provide their viewpoints.
It’s important to hear from the veterans because it’s their care, their lives, that we’re talking about.
We’ll expect to hear one common refrain: Reopen the intensive-care unit.
Others might be: Restore our full-service hospital, hire more doctors, strengthen the staff in the emergency room, add more beds for the post-traumatic stress disorder program.
We may hear some complaints on patient wait times. The Roseburg VA admits it’s had difficulty recruiting doctors for specialty care, so long waiting lists have developed. Most prominent is the backlog of screening colonoscopies.
Veterans here are so dedicated to being treated at the Roseburg VA, however, that many of them choose to wait for an appointment. Director Carol Bogedain said her staff called 5,200 veterans recently and the vast majority opted to wait for a VA appointment rather than get their care in the private sector.
But let’s remember that while long wait times must be remedied so they don’t jeopardize veterans’ care, the more serious overall issue is the lack of integrity by VA leaders who ordered their subordinates to falsify patient appointment records.
The people who gave such instructions, or those who knew about it and condoned it, must resign or be fired.
Our local veterans don’t know who handed down these orders on the VA campus, but Roseburg VA employees do.
Still, they can’t stand up at the town hall meeting and point fingers or name names. Those within the organization who have tried that approach tell us they’ve been ignored, labeled as troublemakers, or portrayed as not getting along with their supervisors.
Certainly every organization has its share of disgruntled employees, but it’s likely these employees were telling the truth before this nationwide exposure erupted. Now their concerns should be revisited.
The VA announced Friday that it would initiate an independent, nationwide review of all scheduling practices at VA medical facilities.
This review should not be limited to current practices — even the slow-moving wheels of government have had time to react to this national news and change its ways.
The Joint Commission that’s been asked to investigate must review past practices and find who was responsible for instigating them at each facility. Otherwise, it will be a waste of time.
At the Roseburg VA, it shouldn’t be a difficult or a time-consuming probe. We’ve had numerous people tell us who they believe was the instigator. An investigation would reveal the commonly held perception.
We’ve called for Bogedain’s resignation because as director, she carries the ultimate responsibility. But the entire leadership team may need to go — the chief of staff has already resigned — for transparency and honesty to return to the Roseburg VA.
Letter: Another side to the Roseburg VA experiencesAugust 8, 2014 —
Reasons for VA morale issues
Do you think that possibly the low morale at the Roseburg Veterans Affairs Medical Center is the result of the toxic front page article about the VA, or the toxic guest opinion of the VA, or the negative letters on the VA? I can’t imagine any doctor contemplating a move to the Roseburg VA would follow through after reading any of the recent articles in The News-Review.
I have been in the VA system for a couple of years and have had nothing but positive experiences in my dealings with them. Staff have been professional, pleasant and helpful. The wait times for doctor’s appointments and in the emergency room have been shorter that I experienced in private practice. A recent visit to the VA emergency room took me a half an hour to receive care.
Is the VA perfect? No, but no one ever said that a government could run a health care system more efficiently than the private sector. Welcome to ObamaCare!
Editorial: Roses and thornsAugust 8, 2014 —
Harold Phillips may be the best secret-keeper in the county. Heck, maybe the nation.
Way back in January, the Douglas County Fair director attended a conference and picked up an award recognizing the efforts of Glide teen Jace Hopkins.
Hopkins, now 17 and about to be a senior at Glide High School, earned the Youth Fair Supporter Award from the Oregon Fairs Association. The honor was due in part to the time he volunteered to raise a steer raffled at last year’s fair. The animal, Beef Bucks, was raffled to raise money for a 4-H scholarship and youth camp. Beef Bucks lived up to his name to the tune of $2,000. It was the second consecutive year Hopkins raised a steer to benefit the community.
But back to that secret. Phillips collected the award in January and held onto it until Wednesday, when he could call Hopkins to the stage and present it for all and sundry to witness.
It’s good to see recognition for a young man who carved out an hour or two each day during the school year to do something that will pay off for other county kids.
Another scam alert
Scams are almost based on some implausibility.
Your sweet, innocent and unjustly jailed grandchild landed in a foreign prison and needs bail money.
You won $1 million and just need to wire $5,000 to claim it.
A rich Nigerian will pay a princely sum for your help.
The first scam, so prevalent it has a name, the Grandparent Scam, preys on human kindness.
The second and third scams tap into a greedy streak that clouds judgment.
The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office has issued a warning about another scam going around that exploits fear and gullibility.
Scammers are calling Douglas County residents with the phony message that warrants have been issued for their arrests. The would-be victim can clear up the matter with the appropriate payment.
What are you going to do when they call for you?
The same principles apply whether it’s the law, royalty, a lottery or a purported grandchild. Don’t give out financial information or send money to strangers.
Most educators work with children who come to them to learn. Barbara Garcia Orton has to seek and find students to get them to teachers.
Garcia Orton is the school and family liaison for Douglas County in the federal Migrant Education Program. She combs agricultural fields, forests and fishing industry sites, looking for children of migratory families. She then gets them plugged into classes and various benefits — lunch programs, accident insurance, academic help and referrals to social service agencies.
It’s not an easy job because many of the families who need the assistance are suspicious of government workers. Still, she’s eager to find more children to add to the 100 or so now participating in the program.
Though Garcia Orton speaks Spanish and has also assisted students from Chinese and Vietnamese families, she points out that eligibility is not based on ethnicity. Instead, the program helps out those who have moved across school district boundaries for work in the past three years, in the fields of agriculture, forestry or fisheries.
The county is fortunate to have a program liaison ready to go the extra mile in out-of-the-way places to provide some stability to kids on the move.
Letter: If ATV riders must be licensed, why not cyclists?August 7, 2014 —
Make training more available
Since 2012, owners of all-terrain vehicles must have their machines licensed in order use them on public land. Anyone who operates these machines has to go online and get certified before they can ride them. Children younger than 16 must have hands-on experience before they are given a license.
I tried to find a place that gave hands-on training. There are none in Roseburg, so I will have to take my 9-year-old granddaughter out of town in order for her to get this training.
If laws have been passed to ensure that riders of ATVs are trained in road safety, then there should be laws passed to make sure people who ride bicycles have training, as well. Some bicyclists must think traffic laws do not apply to them. They will run red lights. They change lanes without bothering to check to see if a car is next to them. They will go 5 miles an hour right down the middle of Harvard, Stephens, or Garden Valley, with no concern for the cars behind them. Small children have no concept of the danger of riding out in front of a vehicle. I have heard of at least three children who were severely injured because they rode out in front of an oncoming vehicle.
I fail to see why it is so imperative that ATV owners, who have little interaction with other vehicles, must have safety training and their ATVs licensed, but bicycle owners, including children, are allowed to ride on public streets without cost or training.
Letter: Searching for links in the chain of lifeAugust 7, 2014 —
Exploring our common DNA
Recent letters have convinced me that more information on human evolutionary biology may be helpful for our community. Humans arose as only one of many examples of the evolution of more primitive life forms. I state it in this fashion to convey that we aren’t necessarily the most or best evolved creatures on Earth. My goodness, 10 minutes of Fox News would persuade any reasonable person of that. We’re simply one of many species generated by natural selection.
There’s evidence from almost every branch of science to support this conclusion. For example, molecular genetics has revealed the similarities and shared ancestry of humans and other animals in our genes. We share about 98.5 percent of our DNA with our evolutionary cousins, the chimpanzees. We also share about 97 percent of our DNA with mice and 44 percent with fruit flies. Surprise! We even share about 23 percent of our genome with green beans and eggplants. I keenly suspect that in some individuals the percentage may range even higher.
Another fact that exemplifies the complexity of our evolutionary past is that our mitochondria, the energy factories in our cells, contain their own form of DNA. Mitochondrial DNA, which we inherit exclusively from our mothers, is different and evolved separately from ordinary nuclear DNA. There’s strong evidence that the mitochondria in our cells began as separate organisms that took up residence in the cells of the ancient, one-celled ancestors of all modern animals about 1.5 billion years ago. Although these findings of science may deflate those who think that humans are unique and the apple of God’s eye, they provide solace and humility to those of us who have come to realize that we belong to the Earth and are simply another link in the chain of life.
Scott D. Mendelson
Letter: Know more about DNA before discounting creationAugust 7, 2014 —
Limitations to DNA code
After reading the “DNA points to evolution” letter to the Public Forum and in so many words being called a foolish liar, I felt compelled to respond. I never once misled or lied about any of the things I stated in my letter. God does not need me to lie for him.
On the other hand, our “DNA” writer did just that. There is absolutely no evidence whatsoever of macroevolution, fossil or otherwise. Show me the transitional fossils and the DNA of a macroevolving creature. There is none and most scientists know that.
There are limitations in the DNA code. If you are going to drop the DNA bomb, you should at least know a little about DNA. DNA is the most complicated molecule in the universe. Sir Frederick Hoyle and a group of college students calculated the probability of just one single cell arranging itself by chance to be 1 in 10 to the 40,000th power. He likened it to a tornado going through a junkyard and leaving a brand new 747 jet. One in 10 to the 25th power is considered mathematically impossible.
Yes, we share a close relationship to the chimpanzee. Some scientists say its 98.4 percent! A 1.6 percent difference doesn’t sound like much, but it calculates out to a gap of 48,000,000 nucleotides and a change of only three nucleotides is fatal to an animal. There is no possibility of change. That conclusion was arrived at by renowned geneticist Dr. Barney Maddox. I have concluded that similar DNA means similar design. I do not even need to go into Michael Behe’s “irreducible complexity.”
I did take exception of the statement that I was “shaming” Jesus. Jesus mentioned the creation 25 times in the Bible. He never mentioned evolution.
Letter: Accepting evolution isn’t always the same as rejecting GodAugust 7, 2014 —
Read letter, not envelope
It’s important to note that accepting evolution as a fact does not necessarily mean one is rejecting God, any more than accepting gravity as a fact does. We accept the heliocentric solar system as a fact, even though the Bible implies a geocentric (and flat earth) solar system. Most Christians worldwide belong to denominations that either accept the fact of evolution or say it does not matter to their faith.
When one denies the fact of evolution by insisting on a literal interpretation of the Book of Genesis, then one is calling God a liar one way or the other. If a literal reading of Genesis is the only correct way to read the Bible, then God is either lying to us in his Book or God is lying to us in his Creation with all the evidence that clearly shows evolution happens. The God of the Biblical literalists is a malicious prankster too, because if we are fooled by his prank, we may end up in Hell for eternity.
Of course, another possibility is if the Bible is true, that Genesis was never meant to be taken literally and those who do cannot understand the concepts of metaphor or allegory. When one reads a metaphor literally, one misses the whole point the metaphor is trying to teach. A story told to teach a message is like the envelope containing a letter in the mail. Those who belong to so-called “fundamentalist” denominations that insist on taking the Bible literally (but apparently not the parts that teach a flat earth) focus, even obsess, on the envelope without understanding it’s being used to convey the message inside. By doing so, they’re calling God a liar and a malicious prankster, even if they don’t realize this.
Letter: Complexity does not spring from nothingnessAugust 7, 2014 —
Evolution takes steps and time
This is in response to a June 15 letter in The News-Review, which argued against evolution using an analogy between the human body and a commercial aircraft. The theory of evolution, the writer claimed, suggests that the human body evolved purely by chance. This, he argued, is as implausible as if all the parts of a commercial aircraft were to fall together by chance.
Anyone wishing to explain the great diversity of life is faced with a problem: Biological systems function like extremely complex machines. Each organ, tissue, and cell in a living organism serves a specific purpose. The claim the creationists make is that complexity does not come out of nowhere. It can only be explained by an Intelligent Designer.
I agree with the first premise. No theory of life is satisfactory if it requires us to believe complexity sprang out of nothingness.
The Intelligent Designer, we are told to believe, created from his mind all the heavens and the Earth, including the complexity we wish to explain. He is also a personal entity with whom people can have relationships, who interferes in human events, and who is capable of bending the laws of nature by sheer will. He is clearly an immensely complex being — even more so than the things he creates.
But complexity, we said, requires a Designer! Who designed the Designer? And the argument comes crashing down faster than an airplane full of religious fanatics.
Unlike creationism, the ultimate deus ex machina, Darwinian evolution provides an elegant and simple explanation for the existence of complex life. It approaches the problem in steps, building simple protocells from primordial slime and relying on gradual changes over time to build on each other. And best of all, it’s supported by evidence!