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July 2, 2015 11:56 AM

Check out this cool (literally) creation that uses a cheap fan, a piece of plumbing, a styrofoam cooler and a block of ice.

June 30, 2015 05:41 PM

Mayor Kitty Piercy has called for an emergency meeting of the Eugene City Council to discuss a fireworks ban over the holiday weekend in light of fire danger in the area. The mayor’s ability to call such a meeting is pursuant to ORS 192.640.

Here is the statment from the mayor's office today:

"In response to community concerns about fire dangers associated with severe drought conditions, Council will hold a special meeting and public hearing on Wednesday, July 1 at noon in Harris Hall to consider ordinance changes that would prohibit fireworks of any kind to be deployed between the date of Council action and July 6, 2015.

"Currently, legal fireworks are only allowed in Eugene on December 31, January 1, and from June 23 to July 6 each year. The prohibition of fireworks during the rest of the year would remain in effect. These dates were established in an ordinance passed by Council last year. Since that time the Eugene Police and the Eugene/Springfield Fire Department have ramped up education and outreach so that Eugene residents are informed of regulations and have information on how to safely discharge fireworks. Fireworks shows that require a permit, professional inspection, and fire crew onsite would not be affected."
 
A copy of the ordinance is available on the City’s website www.eugene-or.gov.

June 24, 2015 03:00 PM

Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley released the following statement today after the U.S. Senate passed “fast track” trade legislation for the Trans-Pacific Partnership and other future trade deals:

When crafting a new trade structure, our national objective should be raising wages and living standards for middle-class Americans. Past trade deals have consistently failed to live up to their promises and made it harder for working Americans to get ahead. Unfortunately, the fast track bill passed by the Senate today does not change that fundamental structure – a structure which has led so many past trade deals to create job losses and falling wages for working Americans.

Many Americans understand that competing for jobs with workers earning rock-bottom wages in other countries hurts them and hurts our economy. That’s why I pressed to use this opportunity to make sure that future agreements truly have meaningful, rising labor and environmental standards, and that they’re able to be enforced. Despite the hard work of many on both sides of this debate, this trade framework ultimately does not achieve enforceable standards on critical issues like minimum wages, currency manipulation, environmental standards, and labor standards. Thus, while some industries may benefit from this framework, new trade deals under this structure will hurt American workers. That’s why I voted ‘no’ on fast track today.

June 23, 2015 02:16 PM

Fox News is all huffy this week over a "Coaching for Educational Equity" conference in Oregon, calling it a waste of taxpayer money that labels "white privilege as oppressive." The confab runs next week in Cottage Grove and the local Tea Party wingnuts are expected to show up carrying protest signs. All the conference really does is address issues of race and equity at an institutional and personal perspective.
http://wkly.ws/21e

June 18, 2015 04:42 PM

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has a new series of videos intended to encourage recreational fishing in Oregon. Fishing license sales have been dropping over the years, which has reduced revenue for ODFW.

June 16, 2015 03:11 PM

Local physician Pamela Wible, M.D., has a fun new video encouraging medical doctors to create better clinics.

June 15, 2015 12:34 PM

Qatar somehow landed a lucrative World Cup siting in 2022, but how many migrant laborers will die from heat stroke and horrid working conditions? Click on the story to read more.

June 11, 2015 01:27 PM

Blue Oregon, a progressive blog, takes a cricital look at the recent history of editorial positions of The Oregonian under former Publisher N. Christian Andersen, who is now editor and publisher of The Register-Guard. Click on the story to link to the blog and activate the blue links.

June 2, 2015 01:41 PM

This new video from Community Supported Shelters features people in the Eugene area who are homeless in "Safe Spots." Paula Goodbar of the CSS board produced the video. Click on the link above for the full video.

May 29, 2015 12:31 PM

We celebrate our military and war movies are super popular. Here's a different perspective.

May 20, 2015 01:13 PM

Interesting anonymous commentary on the Zero Hedge website:

As the student loan bubble steams along towards the $1.5 trillion mark, pundits, researchers, and even (gasp) ratings agencies are starting to sound the alarm. While everyone is (as usual), around three years behind when it comes to admitting what’s been outlined extensively in these pages, we’re at least glad to see that the world is waking up to the fact that i) $1.3 trillion is a lot of money, ii) delinquency rates are far higher than the headline figures suggest, iii) students are never, repeat never, going to repay all of this, and iv) it is taxpayers who will eventually foot the bill.

To the latter point there, the calls for across-the-board debt “forgiveness” have already started and even if they hadn’t, and even if The White House weren’t looking at ways to make the discharge of student debt “more efficient” in bankruptcy, there are a number of reasons to believe that when it’s all said and done, taxpayers will be on the hook at least for hundreds of millions and more probably for hundreds of billions. Consider for instance that the cost of closing just one for-profit college could well run more than $200 million in federal loan forgiveness. Then there’s IBR (that’s “Income Based Repayment") in which borrowers whose disposable income isn’t deemed sufficient when it comes to making monthly payments have the remainder of their loan forgiven after 25 years. There’s literally no way to know what the cost to taxpayers will ultimately be from IBR plans, but what we do know is that an increase in the number of borrowers opting for some kind of IBR plan is one reason why Moody’s thinks some $3 billion in student loan-backed paper may be at risk for default.

So against this backdrop, America needs a plan, because as we’re fond of reminding people, one person’s liability is another person’s asset, meaning debt is never really “cancelled”, it’s just written off at some else’s expense. Ideally, opportunities in the job market and a robust economy would allow new graduates to obtain high-paying, full-time jobs which would in turn allow them to pay down their loans, but since that isn’t going to happen any time soon, we’re open to suggestions.

Fortunately, Democratic Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has a plan that will ensure future generations of taxpayers aren’t stuck paying for their parents' college degrees: simply tax investors so the entire country can go to school for free.

Via Bloomberg:

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders wants to take from the rich in order to make public college tuition-free for everyone else.

On Tuesday, the Vermont senator will hold a press conference in the nation's capital at which he will introduce a plan to use a so-called Robin Hood tax on stock transactions to fund tuition at four-year public colleges and universities.

Sanders' bill sets a 50-cent tax on every "$100 of stock trades on stock sales, and lesser amounts on transactions involving bonds, derivatives, and other financial instruments," the group Robin Hood Tax on Wall Street said Monday in a press release.

"The Robin Hood tax would also slow the growth of automated high frequency trading, which makes the stock market more dangerous," the press release stated. "A small tax would make risky HFT unprofitable, and help reduce the excess speculation on commodities like food and gas that drives up prices, which will protect the economy from computer-generated collapses and market manipulation."

Sanders, who is the only candidate so far to mount a formal primary challenge to Hillary Clinton, argues that making college tuition-free will help America compete in the global marketplace.

"We live in a highly competitive global economy and, if our economy is to be strong, we need the best-educated work force in the world," he said in a press release on Sunday. "That will not happen if, every year, hundreds of thousands of bright young people cannot afford to go to college, and if millions more leave school deeply in debt."
There you go. Problem solved. We’ll leave it to readers to judge what kind of reception that plan is likely to get from GOP lawmakers, but we will venture to propose an alternative: make market rigging algos fund the education of the nation’s best and brightest by taxing all canceled orders. Then again, that plan would only generate revenue for one day because it would put the HFT crowd out of business overnight.

May 19, 2015 03:53 PM

Below is a statement from Eugene Water& Electric Board General Manager Roger Gray today:
 
The University of Oregon Foundation announced on Tuesday, May 19, that it was ending negotiations with Eugene Water & Electric Board for purchase of EWEB’s vacant riverfront property.
 
We are disappointed with the Foundation’s decision, although we recognize this decision was made with great care.  However, we believe the property still holds enormous potential for the community to create a world-class, vibrant, mixed-use development.
 
In the past six months, we’ve made significant progress with a community-supported vision for redeveloping of the riverfront property, working through a number of challenges that will put us in a better position as we move forward from here.
 
We remain optimistic about the future of this property and how it can transform our downtown riverfront and create value for our customers and the greater community. We at EWEB appreciate the partnership with the City of Eugene and will continue to work with the city to honor the community’s vision for a river district.
 
We will need to consult with our elected commissioners on our next steps; there are numerous options to consider and we are committed to making sure momentum carries forward for this once in a lifetime opportunity.
 

May 13, 2015 02:33 PM

Rep. Peter DeFazio wrote a letter to the editor published May 9 that talked about problems with the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership. In that letter he referenced a letter sent Congress last week from legal experts. Here is the text of that letter:

Dear Majority Leader McConnell, Minority Leader Reid, Speaker Boehner, and Minority Leader Pelosi:

We write out of grave concern about a document we have not been able to see. Although it has not been made available publicly, we understand that the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement currently being negotiated includes Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) provisions. ISDS allows foreign investors—and only foreign investors—to avoid the courts and instead to argue to a special, private tribunal that they believe certain government actions diminish the value of their investments.

Courts are central institutions in the rule of law. Americans have much to be proud of in the evolution of our court system, which has evolved over the centuries and now provides equal access for all persons. Courts enable the public to observe the processes of development of law and to watch impartial and accountable decision-makers render judgments.

We write because of our concern that what we know about ISDS does not match what courts can provide. Those advocating using this alternative in lieu of our court system bear the burden of demonstrating why such an exit is necessary, and how the alternate system will safeguard the ideals enshrined in our courts. Thus far, the proponents of ISDS have failed to meet that burden. Therefore, before any ISDS provisions are included in the TPP or any future agreements, including the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), their content should be disclosed and their purposes vetted in public so that debate can be had about whether and if such provisions should be part of proposed treaties. Below, we detail the ways in which ISDS departs from the justice opportunities that U.S. courts provide.

Our legal system rests on the conviction that every individual, regardless of wealth or power, has an equal right to bring a case to court. To protect and uphold the rule of law, our ideals of fairness and justice must apply in all situations and equally to everyone. ISDS, in contrast, is a system built on differential access. ISDS provides a separate legal system available only to certain investors who are authorized to exit the American legal system. Only foreign investors may bring claims under ISDS provisions. This option is not offered to nations, domestic investors, or civil society groups alleging violations of treaty obligations. Under ISDS regimes, foreign investors alone are granted legal rights unavailable to others – freed from the rulings and procedures of domestic courts.

ISDS also risks undermining democratic norms because laws and regulations enacted by democratically-elected officials are put at risk in a process insulated from democratic input. Equal application of the law is another critically important hallmark of our legal system—one that is secured through the orderly development of law. Court decisions are subject to appeal, ensuring that conflicting lower court decisions are resolved by a higher authority. Judges also must follow legal precedent. The goal is uniform application of the law regardless of which judge or court hears a case. This law development allows people, entities, and nations alike to order their behavior according to well-established legal principles.

In contrast, ISDS does not build in the development of the law. An ISDS arbitral panel’s decision cannot be appealed to a court. The ISDS provisions of which we are aware provide only limited— private—review through a process called annulment that does not permit decisions to be set aside based even on a ―manifest error of law.‖1 Moreover, ISDS arbitrators, like other arbitrators, do not make law because their decisions have no precedential value, and ISDS arbitrators in turn are not obliged to follow precedent in reaching their own decisions.

None of the hallmarks of our court system would be possible without a fair and independent judiciary. Federal judges take an oath to uphold the Constitution and are nominated and confirmed by our democratically elected representatives. State judges likewise commit themselves to upholding the constitutional order. In contrast, ISDS arbitrators are not public servants but private arbitrators. In many cases, there is a revolving door between serving on ISDS arbitration panels and representing corporations bringing ISDS claims. Yet, although such a situation would seem to call for more—not less—oversight and accountability, ISDS arbitrators’ decisions are functionally unreviewable.

As noted at the outset, we have not been able to read the terms of the proposed ISDS chapters for the upcoming TPP and TTIP treaties. But what we know from the past gives us many grounds for concern. During the past few years, foreign investors have used ISDS to challenge a broad range of policies aimed at protecting the environment, improving public health and safety, and regulating industry. These challenges have been around the world, including under trade agreements to which the United States is a party. The publicly available information about these challenges raises serious questions as to whether the United States should be entering into more ISDS agreements with a broad array of nations.

Pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly’s pending ISDS proceedings against Canada provide an example of how corporations have used ISDS to challenge a nation’s laws outside the courtroom. After a Canadian court invalidated one of Lilly’s patents, the company initiated ISDS proceedings against Canada under Chapter 11 of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).2 In seeking $500 million (Canadian), Lilly has challenged as violative of NAFTA the standard the nation uses for granting patents.

Although ISDS tribunals are not empowered to order injunctive relief, the threat and expense of ISDS proceedings have forced nations to abandon important public policies. In the third ISDS proceeding brought under NAFTA, Ethyl Corporation brought an ISDS proceeding against Canada for $251 million for implementing a ban on a toxic gasoline additive. The proceeding took place not in a court, but before an arbitration panel of the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID). After the arbitration panel rejected Canada’s argument that Ethyl lacked standing to bring the challenge, Canada settled the suit for $13 million. Moreover, Canada lifted the ban on the toxic additive as part of the settlement.3

1 Impregilo S.P.A. v Argentine Republic, ICSID Case No. ARB/07/17 (Annulment Proceeding), Jan. 24, 2014, at ¶ 132. http://www.italaw.com/sites/default/files/case-documents/italaw3044.pdf (―[T]here is a difference between a failure to apply the proper law and the misapplication of the applicable law, and that the latter does not constitute grounds for annulment, even if it is a ‘manifest error of law’ ...‖) (emphasis added).

2 Eli Lilly and Company v. The Government of Canada, Notice of Intent to Submit a Claim to Arbitration under NAFTA (Nov. 7, 2012). Available at:http://italaw.com/sites/default/files/case-documents/italaw1172.pdf.
3 Michelle Sforza & Mark Vallianatos, ―Ethyl Corporation v.s. Government of Canada: Now Investors Can Use NAFTA to Challenge Environmental Safeguards,‖available at http://www.citizen.org/trade/article_redirect.cfm?ID=6221.

It is particularly noteworthy that the three NAFTA countries are each in the top 11 most- challenged countries under the ISDS system. This high rate of challenge in our view has little to do with a rule of law deficit in the U.S. and Canada. Instead, it represents investors taking advantage of easy access to a special legal right available only to them in an alternate legal system.

ISDS weakens the rule of law by removing the procedural protections of the legal system and using a system of adjudication with limited accountability and review. It is antithetical to the fair, public, and effective legal system that all Americans expect and deserve.

Proponents of ISDS have failed to explain why our legal system is inadequate to the task. For the reasons cited above, we urge you to uphold the best ideals of our legal system and ensure ISDS is excluded from upcoming trade agreements.

Sincerely,

Judith Resnik
, Arthur Liman Professor of Law, Yale Law School

Cruz Reynoso
, Professor of Law Emeritus, University of California, Davis School of Law Former Associate Justice of the California Supreme Court

Honorable H. Lee Sarokin, 
Former United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit

Joseph E. Stiglitz
, University Professor, Columbia University

Laurence H. Tribe
, Carl M. Loeb University Professor, Harvard Law School

cc: Ambassador Froman and Chairs & Ranking Members of Finance & Ways & Means Committees

Please note: Organizational affiliation for all signatories is included for identification purposes only; individuals represent only themselves, not the institutions where they are teaching or other organizations in which they are active.

May 6, 2015 11:51 AM

The Oregon Center for Public Policy this week takes a look at the state and federal mortage interest deduction, a tax break that benefits higher-income home owners. Should that money be better spent on education and social services in Oregon?