Cheers and jeers

Thumbs up to firefighters, child sex trafficking bill; down to smoke, ID mess

Cheers — to the more than 3,500 firefighters from near and far braving thick smoke, heat and rugged terrain to battle the wildfires that are plaguing Southern Oregon this summer. While most residents of the region hunker down and try to stay inside, these hardy souls venture out and perform the punishing physical work that needs to be done to contain more than 50 separate fires in three counties. Our thanks and our thoughts are with them.

Jeers — to the smoke that hangs like a blanket over the Rogue Valley, making breathing difficult and threatening the health of everyone, especially those with respiratory conditions, and to the fickle weather. Forecasters first predicted some relief from a weather system moving in from the coast, then backtracked and said no change was expected until at least the middle of next week.

Cheers — to the Legislature for passing a bill that makes patronizing a child prostitute a felony, punishable by 30 days in jail, a $10,000 fine and mandatory sex offender treatment. The measure brings Oregon into line with California and Washington, which toughened their laws first. After those states took action, authorities saw an increase in child sex trafficking in Oregon, as pimps brought juveniles up the "Kiddie Track" along Interstate 5. Not only does the bill strengthen penalties, but defendants cannot plead ignorance of a child's age, and prosecutors need not prove the defendant knew the child was underage.

Jeers — to the unintended consequences of new identification rules intended to thwart terrorists that instead ensnare law-abiding citizens, often elderly, in a web of red tape when they seek to renew a driver's license. One recent victim of the new requirements is a 94-year-old Gold Hill resident who never was issued a birth certificate from her home state of Tennessee, who was forced to apply for a special ID file from the Social Security Administration.

Cheers — to Ashland Children's Theatre and other groups for stepping into the gap left by the loss of theater programs in public schools. Children enrolled in summer workshops gain a variety of visual, auditory and movement skills that will help them in all areas of life, even if they do not pursue theater as a career.

Cheers — to 17-year-old Michael Bruhn of Ashland, who is setting an example of staying positive despite battling a potentially fatal disease that delivers setback after setback. Bruhn, who has been battling leukemia for six years, recently played golf at Bandon Dunes as part of the Children's Cancer Association's Links Program, aimed at helping families who have limited treatment options left.

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