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The recent story of the local man allegedly raping and assaulting his girlfriend in his garage has prompted me to voice my opinion on what continues to be a terrible epidemic that grips this country.

Though this is not a new trend, the wave of domestic violence toward women and children locally seems to be on a terrible rise. Most go unreported, while some end in tragic results.

The effects of domestic violence are terribly detrimental, and the psychological damage can be a life sentence. The women we love deserve better.

The penalties for domestic violence should be stiffer and harsher. Women are not safe when the men who beat them and terrorize them are on the street.

Women and children are the victims. They are manipulated and coerced and would rather face their monster then run from them because they feel they don't have an out.

If you know someone in this terrible situation, help them. Write letters to our leaders asking for harsher penalties. Help end domestic violence once and for all. I don't want to continue to read in the newspaper about another woman or child heading to the emergency room at the hands of a monster. — Steve Bennett, Medford

A grateful salute to the Veterans for Peace for their demonstration last Saturday to remind us of the prisoners, "detainees," suffering at the American gulag in Cuba.

It is easy to forget about those suffering at Guantanamo, who are being held with no knowledge of when they will be released and with no legal recourse. I hadn't realized it had been going on for 12 years now!

It is good to see an organization with a moral conscience that reminds us of what being an American is all about: respect for human rights and due process for everyone. I am writing to my senators and congressmen today to ask about the fate of the 155 prisoners still there. We are watching. — Laura Baden, Ashland

Saturday, Jan. 11, Ashland Boy Scout Troop 112 collected more than 1,200 Christmas trees from all around the city of Ashland. These trees would have ended up in our landfill or burned. Instead, they were recycled into chips by the Ashland Parks Department to be used on the trails in our parks.

Thanks go to the Ashland Parks Department, Ashland Lions Club and families from Pack 112 and Troop 112. The generous donations by citizens of Ashland to Troop 112 for this service will help to fund this year's summer camp and future high-adventure treks. Additionally, the Scouts who worked that day learned the value of community service.

If you live in Ashland and we missed your tree, please call 541-482-0042. Donations can be sent to Troop 112, P.O. Box 839, Ashland, OR 97520. — John Engelhardt, Scoutmaster, Troop 112

The Phoenix Community Pantry at First Presbyterian Church wishes to thank all those in our extended community who have contributed goods, labor and support over the past year. Thank you to donors of food drives sponsored by Ray's Food Place, Phoenix High Leadership Class and the Phoenix Food Project. Thank you to Grocery Outlet and to our bartering partners TMAC and Veteran's Outreach, and to the city of Phoenix for the CDB grant money. Our community is grateful for your overwhelming support. — Karen Jones, Phoenix Food Projects Coordinator