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More cash for clunkers

The U.S. Senate topped off the “cash-for-clunkers” program last week, just before the program burned its final fumes.

Although, come to think of it, the term “topped off” probably isn’t the most apt way to describe spending $2 billion.

It’s OK to give infants some space

Three babies, ages six months, four months and almost three months, have died in Baker County since May 21.

This is a terrible trio of tragedies.

Save the Steak Feed

We doubt we were alone in our disappointment at the news that the Durkee Steak Feed will not happen this year.

No steaks?

No cowboy pan bread?

Welcome Shriners

When the East and West Shrine football squads take the field in Bulldog Memorial Stadium Saturday afternoon it will be another step in one of the most successful fundraising efforts in the United States.

This year’s contest is the 57th annual East-West game. Since 1981 the game has raised approximately $65,000 annually for the Shriners Hospital for Children in Portland.

Don’t punish Ash Grove

Ash Grove Cement Co. intends to spend about $20 million to cut, by as much as 85 percent, the amount of toxic mercury its Durkee plant spews into the atmosphere.

This is good.

Keep the '10-2' law

America’s legal system, the old saying goes, isn’t perfect but it’s the best we’ve got.

We think the same is true of Oregon’s unique law regarding jury trials.

We’re the only state where, on a 12-person jury, 10 votes are sufficient to convict, or to acquit, the defendant in most felony cases. (Louisiana requires nine votes.)

Unanimous verdicts are required in Oregon murder trials, however.

Although the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1972 that Oregon’s system was constitutional since it applies to state courts but not federal venues, the high court recently asked Oregon officials to defend the system.

Baker and biomass

The biomass business we’ve been hearing about for years finally seems to be gaining traction in Baker County.

But we see some muddy patches looming ahead, and these bogs will have to be negotiated if this fledgling industry is to fulfill its economic and environmental potential.

First the good news.

The owners of Elkhorn Biomass in Baker City are planning a $2 million expansion of their operation.

Owners Lane Parry and Kyle Dunning, who started the business last year, have been chopping logs from private forests into firewood.

Now the pair wants to use other types of biomass — basically, logging slash that used to be piled and burned out in the woods — to produce briquettes and fireplace logs.

Fee needs fixing

Used to be the only price you had to pay for the privilege of pulling a few trout from Anthony or Grande Ronde Lake was the cost of a fishing license.

This, at least, was fair, since the money goes to the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Department, the agency that dumps fish in the lakes every year.

Helping the river and its users

A group of Baker Valley farmers and ranchers, along with government officials, figured out how to keep water in the Powder River, and keep cattle out.

Which sounds like a boon for the river and its inhabitants, but like a potential disaster for those farmers and ranchers.

Law's a damper

Gov. Ted Kulongoski wants to clean Oregon’s air.

This is a fine goal, and one we share.

Trouble is, one of the governor’s tactics for achieving that goal puts an unfair burden on places, including Baker City, where the air, according to the state’s environmental watchdogs, is already admirably pure.

That tactic is Senate Bill 102. Kulongoski signed the bill, also known as “Heat Smart,” into law in late June.

The law, the first of its kind in the nation, mandates that if your home has a woodstove that’s not EPA-certified (this includes most stoves built before 1986), you must remove the stove before you sell your home.

But that’s not all you have to do.

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