I read in Sunday's paper that the U.S. government is building a 21-building embassy complex in Baghdad to the tune of $574 million; I am wondering why we are not using all that money to get better equipment for our troops and ending this war! Does this make anyone else as furious as it does me? — La Dawna Saylor, Ashland

Regarding the Legislature:

Senate Bill 400 stacks the deck in favor of unions during collective bargaining. SB 788 forces child-care providers to unionize. SB 858 forces adult foster-care providers to unionize.

SB 1036, which levies a $1-per-square-foot tax on new homes, was made a "special order of business" and passed the Senate May 10.

Is this what we want our legislators doing? Where are the important issues? — Ellee Celler, Jacksonville

Scott Conroy's piece, "Truth among the casualties of the Biscuit fire," opens up old wounds and is a reminder that the Forest Service promoted unnecessary logging in an area that should have been a national monument.

While he continues to claim the agency made a profit, the Government Accountability Office reported in 2006 that the Forest Service actually lost $2 million and that many Biscuit sales went at rock-bottom prices to single bidders. Truth is, the agency cooked the books by mixing money-losing helicopter sales in remote areas with easily accessible roadside "hazard" sales with minimal environmental review.

Logging was promoted as necessary for "rehabilitating" burned forests, yet studies showed it harmed regeneration and raised future fire risks by leaving logging slash on the ground. We had a proposal in 2001 calling for restricting logging to outside roadless areas and old-growth reserves.

Had the agency listened to reason and sound science, instead of promoting unrealistic logging levels, they could have sent logs to the mills without controversy. Unfortunately, public trust eroded as fast as logged hillsides now scarred by heavy logging damage along popular trailheads, botanical areas, roadless areas and old-growth reserves. — Dominick A. DellaSala, Ph.D., National Center for Conservation Science & Policy, Ashland, and Greg Nagle, Ph.D., Cornell University

Efforts continue to obtain a 10-year permit to mine aggregate on North Applegate Road. This has serious issues for the health and safety of Applegate Valley residents.

Plans call for 220 truck haul trips six days a week, from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Diesel gravel trucks will pass homes every 21/2; to 5 minutes, weighing 80,000 pounds fully loaded. This is not the usual expectation of rural living.

And, it ignores Jackson County's transportation policy, which states land zoning changes making county roads more dangerous cannot be approved unless the dangers can be mitigated.

How such trucks, as described, on a very narrow road with many blind curves can improve road safety is incomprehensible.

Recently, Jackson County's road department and the Oregon Department of Transportation signed a joint letter indicating a double-back route, using Highway 238 and only three miles of North Applegate Road, would work. However, this means double truck traffic every work day. Plus, double impact to the 74-year-old Applegate Bridge and the businesses in nearby Applegate.

Apparently, diesel fumes are considered even better for one's health, if the effect is doubled. — P.R. Kellogg, Grants Pass

This year I am finally graduating from Southern Oregon University. It only took seven years, the first two years filled with 50-plus-hour work weeks and several thousand dollars in student loans. I started at a community college taking night classes and worked my way up to being a full-time student at Linn Benton Community College.

I am one of many Oregonians who are directly impacted by the continued trend of disinvestment in state institutions of higher education. Today I believe that having an educated citizenry is critical to the economic, environmental and cultural future of our state.

Sadly, Oregon students find themselves at institutions facing a disastrous funding crisis and have already experienced the effect of these shortfalls. At Southern Oregon University, I've seen this manifest itself in rising tuition and fees, the reduction of valued support staff and programs being drastically reduced.

Now it looks like higher education is in danger of being overlooked again by our state legislators and much needed programs such as the Shared Responsibly Model and ASPIRE will be left with little to none. Let's get smart: Educating Oregon's citizens is everyone's issue. — Brook Colley, Southern Oregon University student

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