Cheers and jeers

Thumbs up to recycling, recovery; down to Army record-keeping, dredging cuts

Cheers — to the improving solid waste recycling rate in Jackson County. The county recycled 47.6 percent of its garbage last year, the ninth highest rate among Oregon's 36 counties. The number exceeded the county's goal of 40 percent recovery, set in 2009 in legislation calling for a reduction in disposal rates. Still, the county can and should do better. Josephine and Douglas counties had higher recovery rates.

Jeers — to the American military's failure to maintain adequate records of combat operations, leading in some cases to years of frustration for injured veterans who have to prove they served overseas. In one case documented in a Seattle Times report, one veteran spent five years battling the Army until a judge finally accepted the testimony of an officer in his unit, clearing the way for him to receive treatment for his post-traumatic stress disorder.

The problem is bigger than just individual veterans, however. Military historians say vital information that can help the Army learn lessons from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars does not exist because of lax record-keeping. At least 15 brigades serving in Iraq between 2003 and 2008 have no records on hand, and the same is true of at least five brigades deployed to Afghanistan.

Cheers — to Simon Brooks, whose determination helped him make a remarkable recovery from a serious head injury he suffered in a longboard accident. Cheers as well to his efforts to promote helmet use by boarders and cyclists. Brooks was not wearing a helmet when he fell from his longboard in Ashland last September, and doctors who treated him did not expect him to survive. Instead, he made a remarkable recovery and returned to Southern Oregon University last winter.

Jeers — to a federal decision to stop dredging small ports on the coast, saving a little money but potentially costing struggling fishermen their livelihood or endangering their lives. In Port Orford, sand buildup inside the jetty causes waves to break over fishing boats as they attempt to leave the dock, making it too dangerous to get out to sea to fish.

The problem has been developing since the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers stopped dredging two years ago. Now, a local industry and the future of an innovative sustainable seafood cooperative are at risk.

Reducing federal spending is a goal across the board, of course. But cuts like this have real human consequences.

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