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Think Out Loud

The Art of Hard Times

March 10, 2009 4 p.m.

The latest "everyone has to tighten their belts" news came out last week, and it wasn't pretty. As the Oregonian reported, among the budget lines being cut to make up for the $855 million shortfall: $2 million that goes to counties for economic development; $1.2 million to treat problem gamblers; $4.1 million aimed at cleaning up sites contaminated by hazardous waste; and $900,000 to prevent child abuse. And then there was $1.8 million from the Oregon Cultural Trust. It's this last bit that has engendered a firestorm of angry protest by bringing up two very different questions. There's a specific one: Is it appropriate for the state to use money donated for a clear purpose — in this case to fund humanities and arts projects — to plug a budget shortfall in a miserable biennium? And then there's a more general one: How much money should be spent on the arts in such a difficult time?

Think Out Loud

Nuclear Northwest

Feb. 18, 2009 5 p.m.

Oregon's only foray into nuclear energy came to a final end in 2006 with the demolition of PGE's  Trojan nuclear reactor. That nuclear power plant was plagued with problems and citizen activist groups fought to shut it down. In 1979, the partial meltdown at Three Mile Island galvanized public opposition and effectively halted new nuclear projects. But in recent years, the threat of climate change and the recognition of the need to reduce our carbon footprint seems to be changing attitudes about nuclear power. Nuclear advocates say technology has come a long way since the 1970's that and that the key to supplying the nation's energy demands — without carbon emissions — is nuclear power.

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