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UCC hosts solar system walk

WINCHESTER — Umpqua Community College became a gateway to the solar system Thursday when it hosted a solar system walk.

Nearly 500 people from throughout Douglas County came to explore the solar system and learn more about our galaxy.

Oakland High School students helped out at the Jupiter and Neptune stations to teach community members and grade school students about the solar system.

“I love it, because I love astronomy and I love being able to teach that to others,” Oakland junior Dakota Siebenthaler said. “One girl with the first group was just asking question after question after question and it was awesome. She just kept going.”

The curiosity for the solar system is something many of the volunteers from Umpqua Astronomers appreciated.

“I want them to get a sense of how big it is,” said UCC astronomy professor Paul Morgan.

Not only were the planets spaced at the correct distance, but the planets themselves were also made to scale to give people a clear understanding of the galaxy.

In addition to our solar system, students were also able to travel to the Kepler-90 planetary system through “wormholes” Kepler-90 has a similar make up as our solar system.

There will be another opportunity to participate in the solar walk during the STEAM Extravaganza from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at the UCC campus in Winchester.

“We’re planning to offer even more activities this year that will be sure to entertain and expand the minds of children of all ages,” said Gwen Soderberg-Chase, director of Umpqua Valley STEAM Hub and Douglas County Partners for Student Success in a press release. “This annual event has evolved into a great resource for Douglas County residents interested in exposing more youth to STEAM education.”

Some of Saturday’s other activities include a drone competition, rocket building and launching, Lego League robotics and pipe organ building.

Admission is free, but registration at is encouraged.

BLM, Forest Service release Secure Rural Schools funds

The BLM announced this week it will make an $8 million Secure Rural Schools payment to Douglas County.

The Secure Rural Schools funds released this month were already expected and included in the county government’s 2018-19 Fiscal Year budget. SRS funds have not been reauthorized for the county’s 2019-20 Fiscal Year.

The U.S. Forest Service also announced this week that it will release $2.9 million it had incorrectly sequestered from Secure Rural Schools payments to Oregon counties. More than $400,000 of that will go to Douglas County, with a quarter of that going to local schools and the remainder to county government, which can use it for roads, bridges and sheriff’s patrols.

Most of the BLM funds the county receives go into the general fund, with no strings attached about how it’s spent. There had been some concern the BLM, too, would incorrectly sequester some of the money. However, Douglas County Commissioner Tim Freeman said during a recent trip to Washington, D.C., he and other members of the Association of O&C Counties advocated on the county’s behalf to prevent that happening and to get the money released that the Forest Service had sequestered.

Freeman said the funds are important, but they make up a small portion of the county’s budget. The county budgeted $145 million in expenditures for Fiscal Year 2018-19. The SRS money is also a slightly smaller amount than the county receives in property taxes each year. The county continues deficit spending to maintain services even with those SRS funds.

The SRS payments were originally proposed as a band-aid payment meant to compensate the county for the revenue sharing it used to receive when the federal government was harvesting more timber a few decades ago. The SRS payments are just a fraction of the money that the county received during those times.

“We’re grateful for it, but it represents less than 20 percent of historical timber receipts adjusted for inflation,” Freeman said.

Veterans protest possible war with Iran

Veterans and anti-war advocates protested the United States going to war with Iran near the Roseburg Veterans Affairs Hospital on Friday.

Although only about 10 people showed up, protesters holding anti-war signs and American flags received a steady stream of supportive honks and waves from passing motorists.

Protesters were responding to several days of reports that U.S. armed forces might be preparing for a confrontation with Iran or the various militant groups it supports.

This week, White House officials reviewed plans to send 120,000 troops and other reinforcements to the Middle East and said they received intelligence showing an elevated threat to Americans in the region.

The credibility of that intelligence has been called into question by military officials in the U.S. and abroad, who say they don’t see an elevated threat. The White House has not released details about the threat.

On Wednesday, the State Department ordered all non-emergency personnel to leave Iraq.

Saudi Arabian officials said two oil tankers and other energy infrastructure was attacked over the weekend. Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels claimed responsibility for the attacks Tuesday.

Both President Donald Trump and Iranian officials said they don’t want to go to war, but both countries have said they will respond with force if provoked.

The reports were reminiscent of the lead up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, according to Bob Heilman, secretary of the Douglas County chapter of Veterans for Peace, which organized the protest in Roseburg.

This week, several members of Congress made the same connection to Iraq as they complained the White House was not keeping them adequately informed.

“I’m old enough to remember the Gulf of Tonkin incident before Vietnam,” Heilman said. “Before Iraq, I was reminded of that. It’s a pattern.”

The size of the force reviewed by White House officials this week was similar to the one sent to the region before the invasion of Iraq.

As it started to rain, Henry Butler, a Vietnam veteran who attended the protest Friday, said he wanted raise awareness about the threat of a conflict.

“We need to do a better job of understanding what our government is doing,” Butler said.

He echoed Heilman’s connection to the lead up to the Iraq war.

“We were duped then and we’re being duped now,” Butler said of unspecified intelligence showing a threat.

Butler, who has combat-related post-traumatic stress disorder, said it’s hard for him to see armed conflicts treated lightly by elected officials.

“We don’t talk enough about the cost of war,” he said. “We lost 58,000 people in Vietnam and a lot of people are still dealing with the effects of that war today, every day.”

Before World War II, the U.S. never considered going to war unless there was near certainty Americans were in danger, Butler said.

“That’s not the case now,” he said. “It’s scary.”