Cheers and jeers

Cheers — to a group of Ashland children who obviously haven't heard that newspapers are a dying industry. The kids, ages 6-11, started their own paper, the Billings Ranch News, in their neighborhood. The publication has articles, ads, weather forecasts, comics and even Sudoku puzzles.

The paper is a hit in the neighborhood, where folks have even chipped in donations to help pay for ink cartridges the young newshounds use to print out their editions. Not only are the children writing more, working as a team and fulfilling commitments, as their parents report, they also have learned a valuable lesson about the business: News isn't free.

Cheers — to local attorneys who took top honors in a statewide competition that raises money to provide free legal services to low-income Oregonians. Jackson County lawyers raised more than $22,000 in the annual Campaign for Equal Justice fundraiser, beating out second-place Lane County in the Equity Cup competition.

The cup, awarded to the region with the largest percentage increase over the previous year in donations from lawyers, is jointly sponsored by the Campaign for Equal Justice and the Oregon State Bar. The Jackson County group collected donations from a third of the attorneys in the county, a larger proportion than the 20 percent that donate statewide.

Jeers — to Congress (yes, we know it's an easy target), which still has not addressed the student loan crisis facing millions of college students across the country. The interest rate on federal student loans is set to increase to 6.8 percent July 1 if Congress does not act. Guess what — Congress has not acted. Shocking, isn't it?

Homeowners can get better rates right now on a mortgage. Banks — many of them partly responsible for the economic collapse still plaguing the economy — can borrow money from the Federal Reserve at 0.75 percent. The Fed says the rock-bottom rate is essential to keep the recovery going. But a new study — by researchers for the New York Fed, of all people — suggests high levels of student loan debt also are a drag on the economy.

Cheers — to the Ashland Emergency Food Bank's expanding garden and its goal of owning its own building. The goal is to have 24 raised beds pushing up produce to augment the packaged food the pantry distributes to hungry residents. And if fundraising goes well this summer, the food bank will buy its home by August, putting an end to forced moves.

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